Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

USA Today story on 'Partial-birth Abortion' - The focus is largely on a woman who would not have been able to have her most recent child if the ban had been passed earlier, since it outlawed the safest procedure in order to score political points.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Christie and I started our Halloween prep this weekend. It's nothing major, just some a string of pumpkin lights and some creepy eyes in the window. Pictures here.

I'm also putting some of my older pictures up on Flickr. I started with some old pics from Japan, since the originals aren't online anymore. They're here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Once upon a time, I was talking with my mom while my dad was out of town on business. It was obvious that she missed him a lot, so I asked if he'd ever thought about travelling less. At the time, he was spending almost a quarter of his time out of town. She said no, that he really loved the travelling, and besides, that it was good for the two of them to find time to miss each other.

That's just my way of saying that while I've enjoyed having a bit of solitude this week, I've had this goofy grin just below the surface all day, because tonight I get my Christie back.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Poetry from the spam filter: "Any vacuum cleaner can non-chalantly make love to a chain saw around an eggplant, but it takes a real mastadon to teach a temporal roller coaster. A bowling ball inside the tape recorder hesitates, and a smelly apartment building feels nagging remorse; however, the feverishly cosmopolitan avocado pit brainwashes the fashionable bowling ball. A blithe spirit over the blithe spirit is hairy. Furthermore, the plaintiff living with a demon earns frequent flier miles, and a tripod of the defendant inexorably brainwashes the bowling ball over an oil filter. If the senator gives a pink slip to a Eurasian fundraiser, then a rattlesnake from a carpet tack hesitates. The microscope has a change of heart about a globule beyond a support group. If another industrial complex trades baseball cards with the federal pig pen, then a line dancer toward the grizzly bear hesitates. Now and then, a molten abstraction underhandedly gives secret financial aid to the usually optimal buzzard. A burglar for a class action suit tries to seduce a familiar chess board."

"Molten abstraction" I like that.
A year and a half ago, Scott Adams (yeah, the Dilbert guy) was diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia, a neural disorder that shuts down the neural pathways between the speech centers and vocal cords. Because the brain is weird, it's a weird illness, with people able to sign, but not speak, or in Scott's case, able to do public speaking or to himself while alone, but not around family or friends (though he could sing to them). No one has ever gotten better from this disease.

Until now. Using his basic understanding of the way the brain works, a strong desire to get better, and a willingness to experiment, he found a backdoor to speech that is helping his brain reroute traffic.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Richard Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly Is No God

There's some superb reasoning here, but I'd like to see someone do a more detailed takedown of the classic arguments for the existence of God. For instance, the teleological argument, or the argument from design, says that complex things in our world are designed, we are complex, therefore we were designed. But that first assumption's a doozy (not to mention begging the question). In fact, simplicity is much more often a sign of design. Think tree branch vs. wedge. I've never seen anything as simple as a wedge just show up in nature. Natural things are all fractally and complex and stuff. Sure, human beings are gradually learning how to design more and more complex things, but we're nowhere close to being able to design something as complicated as even a flatworm.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I could say it's for Billie, but he's knows so many knots by now, whereas I now finally understand a bowline after having it shown to me 34,328 times: Animated Knots
I'm waiting for a macro to finish that'll refresh the data I need to answer the questions that came up in a meeting that we had in the conference room that's found in the house that Jack built. Or something like that. While I'm waiting, I thought I'd share a couple of thoughts that I've been thinking about fleshing out, but, being the lazy fellow that I am, why not just put them out into the world half-formed?

Thought One: Fashion and food are, arguably, two of the most innovative creative industries in the US. It's not that most of us really eat or wear things that are that different, but the folks at the top of the heap have to keep innovating if they want to stay there. Why? Because there are no copyright protections for their creations. They can protect a particular execution of their designs, and they can protect their trademarks, but if they want those trademarks to hold their value, they've got to keep creating. If you're curious, this thought was inspired by Top Chef and Project Runway.

Thought Two: Now that true conservatives are finally letting their disgust with the Republican party drive them into the arms of the Democrats, we're ending up with a weird sort of three party thing. There are liberal Democrats, conservative Democrats, and Republicans. If things keep going like this, there will inevitably be a schism within the Democratic party, probably as the Republican Party dwindles, possibly resulting in the birth of a true centrist party. More likely, I suppose, is that Repubs will dwindle to the point that they're ripe for a takeover by the conservative Democrats, and we'll go back to the way things used to be, back before the Republican Party lost its mind.

Thought Three: I can't really take credit for this particular thought (and it's more of a thought-cloud than a thought). Christie and I were talking about Missouri's Amendment 3 after driving by a convenience store with one of those "470% Tax Increase!" signs. I'd googled it, and, yeah, the 470% claim is probably kind of an exaggeration, but maybe not. But it's a tax only on cigarettes, and while I know it'll disproportionally affect the poor, would it really be that bad a thing if smoking became one of those luxuries that only the rich could afford? Me, I was thinking that maybe more expensive cigarettes would cut down on teen smoking and college student smoking, which led Christie to suggest that maybe we should index the tax to age. If you're under 25 and want to smoke, a pack of cigarettes should cost $375 dollars, for example. Next chance I got, I shared this idea with my brother's family, and Dylan shot holes in it right away: "Kids would just get somebody older to buy the cigarettes for them!" Lisa then pointed out that it would at least get young people talking to the elderly, while Mark suggested that, if they split the price difference between them, the extra income could solve the Social Security 'Crisis'. Talk about a policy panacea!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Christie left this afternoon for a business trip in the Carolinas. She's actually not flying out until tomorrow, though. Today she's at the Chihuly exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. With my Mom. Mom's been wanting to see the exhibit, and Christie needed a ride to the airport, so it sort of worked out. Except my wife and my mother are spending the day together, without me there to be sure nobody tells too much truth. But I'm sure it'll be fine. What could possibly go wrong?

In other news, you may have noticed a paucity of posts lately. I could, I suppose, talk about the first head cold of the season, weekend projects, a make-it-yourself Christmas, migraines, or any of the other things that have been eating my spare time, but I'm actually going to break one of my rules and talk (in suitably vague terms) about work.

There once was a time that I was desperate for some way to keep track of all the various projects that were stacking up around me. I picked up David Allen's Getting Things Done. Now, I didn't do the full 43 folders thing. I didn't need anything quite that involved. I just needed a way to track requests from my boss(es), a few recurring projects, and one or two pet projects of my own.

I picked up a few nifty tricks, but this isn't a post about Getting Things Done, it's a post about Not Getting Things Blogged. The GTD tricks got my in-box down to a manageable level, and, more importantly, brought my stress level down through the ceiling. A few weeks back, I started wondering if I was getting too good and tracking my to-do list. I never ran out of things to work on, but where I was used to having five or six major projects, a dozen minor ones, and at least a couple of amorphous head-scratchers, now I was down to less than ten projects overall. It was nice being able to close some old threads, but I'd be lying if I wasn't wondering if something was up.

Something was up, and my cubicle walls are now plastered with new projects, printed large enough that I can know what I need to be worried about without leaving my chair. The detailed view runs to some thirteen pages, I'm working on things I didn't even know about two weeks ago, and am in charge a web site I haven't had to pay detailed attention to since about three redesigns ago. And I still have some of the old projects, too.

Actually, it's probably good for my sanity for this to be happening so close to the election, because I am way, way too busy to be paying close attention. I will not, I expect, be busy enough not to miss Christie, though. There ain't no such thing.

Friday, October 20, 2006

M: So, Heather left a comment on my blog.

C: Which entry? The one about making your own sword?

M: Naturally. Apparently, Brian wants to use the Gandalf sword to beat the pinata at their next party.

C: Really?

M: Yeah, no way that could go wrong: a blind guy with a six-foot sword!

C: Blind?!

M: Blindfolded! Sorry. Not blind. Blindfolded.

C: Phew. For a second there, I was like, 'My god, what did Brian do to himself now?'

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Olbermann provides a valuable service. The tone of his piece is that the Bush administration is destroying the fabric of America, but the meat of the piece catalogs the presidents who've gone down this road before. John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and others have been granted the power to imprison American citizens on flimsy (if any) grounds, and all of them have ended up abusing it. And each time, the nation recovers.

So, yes, the Bush administration is acting reprehensibly, but America is stronger than the cowardice of the men who are currently running things.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I want to emphasize to any concerned family or friends that might be reading that I will not be setting up a backyard sword forge to make my own sword. I also want Emily, Heather, and Dionne to know that it is totally not my fault if your husband reads this and thinks it looks like fun.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

There's a new link under News & Politics, but I'm not sure that's the right place for it. It's The Sandbox, where the folks at Doonesbury are publishing dispatches from military personnel and their family. It's definitely news, and it ought to be a major part of our politics, but politics these days is much more about posturing than it is about listening to the people quite literally under the gun as the result of our policies.
Last night, Christie and I volunteered to go phone canvassing for the McCaskill campaign. This morning, the radio comes on, and the first thing we hear is a pro-McCaskill ad by the Democratic party about her "Missouri Values" saying, among a whole bunch of other things, that "marriage is between a man and a woman."

See, and here I am, a Missouri man, married to a Missouri woman, and our values tell us that our gay friends have the same right to marry the people they love as our straight ones. I'm going to vote against Talent because he and his party have a record of sticking their noses where they don't belong, and using what they find (or lying about what they find) as a way of distracting us while they take our country further in the wrong direction.

I want to vote for someone who's going to espouse values I agree with, preferably in a way that helps people see that being a liberal happens because of our values, not because we don't have any. I want to vote to someone who's not distracted by the Republican bullshit machine, but actually spends her time on real problems, in areas where government can do some good. Is that candidate Claire McCaskill? According to that ad, it's not.

Look, I know this is a tight election, and that sometimes you have to strategize. But running to the right of Jim Talent doesn't give me a reason to vote for Claire McCaskill, it takes away from my reason for voting for her. And it makes me less enthusiastic about volunteering my time or money to help put more ads like that on the air.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The New Republic notes a new poll that says: "52 percent of respondents said that Democrats would make the right decisions on how to spend taxpayers' money, while 29 percent said Republicans would."

I'm not surprised, really. This summer I was talking politics with Theron's Dad, a dyed in the wool conservative, and a friend of his who is very involved on the conservative side of Michigan politics. I told them that I felt like the Republican Party was coasting on a reputation for competence and responsibility that they earned mostly before I was born, and they both agreed, albeit sadly. That was when I knew that the Republicans were in real trouble.

Frankly, it's about time. Because of Bush's tax cuts, state and local taxes are going up all over the country in an attempt to make up for the shortfall. They're spending enough money every single day in Iraq to make huge improvements to real problems here in the U.S. and around the world (including things that might actually help in the GWOT), and they're doing it without a clear plan or goals. And the interest on the national debt is going to be so much higher than it once was that we can kiss a lot of services goodbye even when we get some decent financial management back in Washington.

America cannot afford another 2 years of Republican rule.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Yesterday was a migraine day, as was today. And migraine days mean migraine nights, and that means migraine nightmares. The night before last had a doozy: Republicans were trying to seduce teenagers via crafting blogs, and every once in a while, this woman would pop up and rub a quilted iPod cozy against her forehead while a disembodied voice said apply directly to the forehead!

I'm serious. This was an actual dream I had.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Good geeky fun from Boing Boing.
Hey, Christie, check out the new eBook reader from Sony.
Novel police tactic puts drug markets out of business. They're mostly targetting crack markets in the inner city, but I'd love to see this approach adapted to meth in rural areas. It's not that I necessarily think it will work; it's that what we're doing clearly isn't working, and we need to try some new approaches.
Writing for TAPPED, Robert Farley has an excellent point about the expansion of executive priviledge in the torture bill. But he works hard to come up with a hypothetical involving a President Hillary Clinton. There's no need, really. Imagine the actual President Clinton with these powers immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing. How would conservatives feel about him having the right to lock up and torture, with no judicial oversight, McVeigh, Nichols, anyone that ever sold them a gun, the people that sold them the fertilizer, the right wing cult members that egged them on, the folks who taught them how to make home made bombs, etc., etc., etc. It doesn't take much to imagine the shitstorm that would have followed.

Personally, I don't think Clinton would have used that power even if he had it. He had his faults, but that particular sin didn't seem to be his drug of choice. But there's no telling, which is one of the reasons I oppose the idea of giving this kind of power to any president.