Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I just added this button on the right:

Save Handmade Toys

So what's it about? We all, I'm sure, remember the problems with toxic toys imported from China. There was a lot of pressure on Congress to do something, and the something they chose to do was to pass a law requiring vigorous testing of all products sold for children. Which sounds great until you think of the millions of cottage makers out there making toys (or furniture) in their garages, basements, and sewing rooms. As more than one person has put it, the people hurt the most by this law will be the people who have already earned our trust.

Put another way, once this law is passed, and all these boutique manufacturers are put out of business, your only choice will be to buy toys from companies big enough that they can afford the expensive testing. And if you don't trust the testing, you're sort of screwed. But why wouldn't you trust the testing? I mean, look how well it's worked for the beef industry, right?

I'd call it a coincidence, but I'm old enough now to have seen this happen again and again. Big business screws up --> Congress threatens regulation --> Big business hires lobbyists --> lobbyists make sure that new regulations are harder on small businesses than big ones.

So, anyway, click the link and see what you can do about it. I'm particularly jazzed about voting for it on Change.gov. How cool is it that our new president has a site where we the people can tell him what ideas we think are most important?

Monday, December 29, 2008

To Catch a Thief - Spoiler Alert!

Christie and I watched this classic Hitchcock movie recently, and I thought it was well made, but I couldn't escape the feeling that the ending was supposed to be a twist ending, like, "Hey, this badass jewel thief is actually a girl! Bet you didn't see that coming!" But yes, yes I did. From the first moment she appeared on screen.

Select text to see the spoiler.

Charging a Razr phone from your PC

If you've got a Razr phone, and find yourself stuck at work with no charger, but your phone is dying, you charge it off your PC. All you need is a USB cable, and these drivers.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Mara (age 3.5): Let's play pirates!

Me: How do we do that? Do we say Arrrr! a lot?

Mara: Yeah! And pretend we have patches on!

Me: And parrots?

Mara: Yeah! And funky pants!

Paging Alanis Morissette

When the automation you set up so you won't have to come into the office on your day off fails because goddam lotus notes pops up an "Out of Office" reminder in the middle of the macro and brings it all to a screeching halt, that, unlike a black fly in your chardonnay, actually is ironic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Year in Review - 2008

I'd love to write up some kind of family newsletter, but the kidlet had the flu this weekend (high fevers, middle of the night ER visit, the whole works) and I've got it now. Besides, it's sort of like a bomb went off in our lives back in June, and we're still finding pieces. It was a good bomb, but a bomb nevertheless. If I did write such a newsletter, it'd only be for the last 6 months. Of course, the first six months of 2008 were basically spent prepping for the Coming of She Who Was Foretold (By Ultrasound), so that's probably pretty appropriate.

I guess I'll let the pics tell the tale:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's easy to forget that Santa Claus has his origins in northern European wildman myths, so it's cool to see this family tree from the Fortean Times that lays it all out. I'd like to see Enkidu on there, and might actually more of a scholarly approach than the humorous one on here, but the artist is drawing for an audience that already knows the lineage somewhat, whereas most people don't.
I was on the verge of installing Ubuntu on my laptop the other day, but stoppped short when it came to partitioning. Because my laptop is a Lenovo, there's a recovery sector on the hard drive, and preserving it while installing Linux is, by all accounts, a hassle. I checked everything I could online, and all accounts are that almost everything works almost correctly, but there are one or two things that still need a little tweaking, like getting the speakers to work.

Which brought me, mentally, to how I actually use my home laptop, and while I do a ton of web 'work', I also need to be able to run Microsoft Office for at least one theoretical consulting project that might materialize in the next month or so. Mostly, though, I use it to watch TV and movies, and I either download those off the Tivo or watch them via Netflix streaming video, and neither of those work in Linux yet, and my understanding is that WINE doesn't deal with Tivo-to-Go perfectly yet.

Basically, I was thinking of changing to Linux because of the hassles associated with Vista, but it's turned out that Linux would most likely be just as big a hassle, so I'm not switching.

In other news: look, bad cakes!

Friday, December 19, 2008

I had a nice experience with CapitalOne today. They called me the other day to let me know that my payment was 18 days late (!), and would I like to make a payment now, over the phone? In general, I make it a point to not give information about my bank account to people who call me on the phone, but this woman had all kinds of information that only CapitalOne would have. Of course, making a payment over the phone would have required me to have my checkbook with me, which I didn't, so I made an electronic payment via my bank while I was on the phone, and the customer service rep made a note in the file that the payment should be there by the end of the week. She also said that if it turned out that I'd never received the November bill, I should let them know, and they could send me a copy.

Since then, I've been calling their automated thingamajigger to see if the payment had come in, so I could make sure I was covered. This morning a person answered the phone instead of the usual robot. She confirmed that they'd received the payment, and I told her that I'd looked for the bill, and couldn't find any evidence that I'd received it. I was pretty straight with her, though, that it might have simply been misplaced, and told her that there was no need to send me a copy, as I had other records of what was on it.

With no prompting from me at all, she told me that she "hated to see a late fee on there" as I was such a good customer, and that she'd be removing it.

I realize it's pretty rare for people to write "I just had the best experience with my credit card company!", especially in this credit market, but I did, and I wanted to give them the props they deserve. No Hassle, indeed.
For no reason at all, I give you Former Iowa Governor (and soon to be Ag Secretary) Tom Vilsack, dressed as the crocodile from Peter Pan.

Being a parent, in a nutshell,

is realizing that the money you'd sort of mentally set aside for a Tivo HD sometime after the new year will instead be going for new car seats for a kid who's growing like a weed.
So Obama's picked Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Rick Warren's a Christian whose teachings are more based on the Pharisees than on Christ, and a conservative who thinks that government needs to be more involved in limiting access to marriage and controlling women's medical decisions. Gay right proponents and feminists are pissed off, as is that particular group of evangelicals who think Obama is the antichrist, or a secret muslim, or a baby-killer.

I'm a member of the first group, and could care less about the second. So how do I feel? I couldn't care less about this, either. Some of it is probably post-election politics fatigue. And this really is nothing but politics. Nobody thinks Warren is going to use this opportunity to rail against gay married baby killers. Nor is there any suggestion that Warren will be in a position to influence policy. The groups on the left are upset that Obama is 'legitimizing' Warren, and on the right, that Warren is legitimizing Obama.

In other words, this is about feelings, not policy, which probably explains why I could give a rat's ass.

So who gains and who loses? Both of them lose a bit of cred with people who will not be going to the opposition, while not really gaining any cred with the other side. Obama loses a bit more, as the group that's upset with him is both larger and more mainstream, but I doubt it will do him any lasting damage. And the people upset with Warren over this are the evangelical equivalent of indie music snobs who have probably long since dismissed him as a sell out. In terms of purely negative, Obama loses more than Warren.

On the positive side, Warren gets to maintain his image as a political insider, even as the country shifts away from his more extreme views (his views on poverty are much more Christ-based), and gets to be seen, by those of us who pay no more attention to evangelical Christianity than we have to, as mainstream. Obama gains reinforcement of his core message in two ways: Rick Warren is considered by many to be "America's Preacher". Most of those who would call him that didn't vote for Obama, but having him give the invocation drives home to those people that Obama is going to be president of the entire country, not just the 52% that voted for him. After the wedge-driving of the last 8 years, that's a welcome message to me. The second bit of Obama's core message this reinforces is that you don't have to agree with him on everything to be an ally. That bodes well for his legislative agenda.

Any party that insists on ideological purity is hamstringing itself, and we're looking at some huge challenges just in the next year that are going to require the political will of significantly more than 52% of the populace to get them done. Reforming health care is crucial to our economy, and Obama will need to have people on his side that, like Warren, consider abortion to be a silent holocaust and someone else's gay marriage to be an assault on their religious freedom. If this helps, I'm cool with that.

Update: Yglesias with the other hand.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why I give money to strangers

Reading this bit of holiday schmaltz on Snopes reminded me of an old story that a quick search of the archives tells me I've never told here.

My first year out of college, I was living in Kirksville with my then-fiance, Carrie. I had spent the summer working for the Scouts, and Carrie had been working, too, but we needed to move into a new apartment because her place fell out from underneath us, and I'd been living in a tent for the last 3 months. If I remember correctly, I had a job already, pushing grease at McDonald's, but wouldn't get my first check for a couple of weeks, while her landlord was holding on to her damage deposit for as long as he legally could. We were, in a word, broke.

How broke, exactly?

Completely. Bupkis.

And the cupboard was damn near bare.

Luckily, I remembered that the boxes from my old apartment contained a little plastic container into which I'd thrown my excess change on and off during my last year of college. It had been gathering dust in my parent's basement over the summer, but I dug the box out of the closet, found the container, and dumped it out on the floor. It added up to $4.17.

Thank god we had gas in the car, because that got us to Wal-mart, where we bought as much rice, dried beans, flour, etc. that we could, while I kept a running total in my head, taking my best guess at the tax. My best guess was a bit off, though, as everything rang up to $4.23. I knew we were six cents short, but I counted out the change anyway, hoping I was remembering wrong. I wasn't, so I started looking at our pile of groceries, wondering which item to keep back. It wasn't an easy choice, but the line was piling up behind us, and my face was getting redder by the moment.

The woman next in line smiled and handed me a dime.

I've never been as grateful for anything as I was for that dime, but what I'm most grateful for now, through the distance, was the smile, as if there was nothing more natural than paying for your groceries with a box full of change, wondering which meal you could afford to miss because you were six cents short.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My wife is more interesting than I am

Me: Did you know they made a Hallmark movie about Jeff's brother?

Christie: Wow, that's the second person I've know who's had a movie made about their family.

Me: Who was the first?

Christie: Remember when I dated that guy whose mom had hired a hitman to kill that woman so her daughter could be a cheerleader?

Me: Oh, right. Well, you've certainly got the gamut there. It's not exactly A to Z, but it's definitely A and Z.
NASA administrator Mike Griffin sounds like a real prize.
If I were going to get Billie a Christmas present, I'd get him this. Of course, if I were going to get Billie a Christmas present, then I'd have to shop for Emily, Theron, Dionne, and probably a whole bunch of other people as well. So, sorry, dude, no prezzie for you. But you oughta click that link, because I think you'll think it's cool.
I had a seriously depressing thought the other day:

I was watching an old Numb3rs episode (love streaming Netflix, BTW), and the plot revolved around a Holocaust survivor. The two brothers that the show revolves around happen to be Jewish, and they were wrestling a bit with the idea of the Holocaust. It clearly wasn't something that existed more as history to them than as a personal connection, until they ran up against this particular case, which led them to investigate their family history a bit as well.

I started thinking about the ways in which the Holocaust acts as a historical singularity for Jews all over the world, in that it triggered a huge diaspora from Europe, and those who didn't emigrate were almost entirely wiped out. For many Jewish families, their history basically stops at WWII because there is no one left to tell the stories, and all the records were destroyed or falsified. Almost anyone who has studied their own family history will have run across these dead ends, but in the Holocaust, we have a giant curtain drawn across the history of an entire people, and the further we get from it, the less likely it becomes that this curtain will ever be opened (we're facing the same problem as we research the history of Christie's grandfather's WWII service).

The poignancy of watching the younger generation (on the show) dealing with this loss of history got me to wondering if there are other examples of this. My mind immediately went to the Iraq war because of it's duration, and because I'm always wondering what effect it's going to have on our country in the long run. And there is an analogy to be made there, but I was looking at it from the wrong side. There has indeed been massive death and a huge diaspora from Iraq, and I have a feeling that future Iraqis researching the history of their families will run into a huge curtain, labeled, "And then the Americans came."
The Readius is a pocket eBook Reader, made smaller by the use of a rollable screen. It looks extremely cool, but I'll consider it vaporware until it launches.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We so could have used this when we were all in the throes of colic: Itzbeen Baby Care Timer. I was looking back over our pictures since the kid was born, and three out of four pictures from her first three months are of her sleeping on someone who is also sleeping.

Bonus points for the product having a name that tells you exactly what it does.

Fun with search logs

Someone found this blog by searching for "amish filled donuts", which does not sound very tasty. Even ignoring the cannibalism, I'd still say they sound worse than the beef curry filled donut that Tony accidentally ate in Japan.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Parenting Insight # 324

I was not the easiest teenager to live with. More than once, I've wondered why my parents still talk to me, let alone give every impression of enjoying my company. I think I figured it out, though, now that I'm a parent.

Once you've watched someone struggle with learning that you can't have their thumb and their pacifier in their mouth at the same time, and rooted for them to finally figure it out, I'd imagine it's pretty easy to forgive them for taking a long time to learn the harder things, like being graceful in admitting fault, and basic politeness to those closest to you.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A note to publishers of cut-rate Christmas music albums: If you're going to cut "bring us some figgy pudding" from We Wish You a Merry Christmas, please also cut the line "we won't go until we get some". When you don't, it's just creepy.

Another Old Picture

Can you tell we got a scanner recently? This one's of Theron and Emily, roughly a thousand years ago.
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Friday, December 05, 2008

A local woodworkers group is bringing Marc Adams to Columbia to teach classes on basic router use and joinery.

Ryan Tarpley

That old picture I put up the other day had a few people in it that might bear some introducing to those of you who haven't known me for 20 years. I'll start with Ryan (second from the right). Ryan Tarpley and I went to high school together, knew each other slightly freshman year, really didn't like each other sophomore year, and were fast friends by graduation, and stayed that way until he died at age 25 from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. The story of how we went from being sort of enemies to strong friends is one of my favorite stories ever, and a good explanation of why I still miss Ryan, almost 13 years after his death.

At the end of our sophomore year, Ryan was dating Heather, whom I wanted to date (isn't high school wonderful?). I managed to make that switch happen over the following summer, and Ryan moved on to dating other folks. So here it is, junior year, and I'm dating Heather, and now Ryan is dating Amy Young (Amy, if you're out there, drop me a line; I'd love to know how you're doing). Amy was one of those sweet girls that everyone loves, while Ryan was equal parts brash and crass, and we had all sort of cast him as the villian in our little debate club dramas, so there was a lot of confusion on all of our parts as to what the attraction was.

One Saturday afternoon, there's a group of us hanging out on the debate bus between rounds talking about the evils of Ryan, and trying to come up with ways to break up Amy and Ryan. That group, as near as I can recall, including Amy's brother (Bryan), Amy's ex (Ben), Ryan's ex (Heather), Heather's boyfriend (me), and Theron, who had no vested interest. Not long into the conversation, Bob came onto the bus, sat on a pile of coats in a nearby seat, and joined in half-heartedly (he wasn't quite as dedicated a Ryan-basher as the rest of us).

I don't really remember the specifics of the conversation. It was just standard high school stuff. But it ended up meaning a lot to Ryan, because his stereo was under that pile of coats that Bob sat on, and Bob's ass pressed the record button. The next time Ryan went to listen to the Doors, he was treated to ten minutes of drunk Jim Morrison, and 35 minutes of us railing on him.

I only know this because Ryan told me about it years later. He listened to that tape over and over again, and paid particular attention to the things we said we didn't like about him. If he thought our criticisms were valid, he set out to change. If they weren't, he made it his goal to change our minds. He resolved to become friends with every single person on that tape, and he was, until the day he died.
Our Christmas shopping is now done.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Winter, 2008

It is not a remotely original insight
to say that all this looking forward,
to next week, the next check, the next
next thing accelerates us like a skydiver
going head first, arms at his sides.

But I suppose it's better than trying to
claw back up through the air, wishing
for last year, the year before, for what's
lost, or never really had, and what is
now, anyway, but the point where one
meets the other, and the wind whips past?

So I sit and watch the gate blow back
and forth, see where the neighbor's
Christmas light falls across our family bed,
watch my daughter's chest rise and fall,
see my wife frown in her sleep, and even as
I sit, that now slips away, and I'm already
missing it, looking forward to the next.

Old pictures

Mary's often wondered out loud what I looked like with long hair. Here's the answer, plus a blast from the past for some of the old friends who read the blog.

Patrick, remember this beard?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not much to say, really. Just chilling with family and watching the news only when absolutely necessary. I know there's stuff going on out there in the wider world, but my focus has narrowed for the time being. I'm sure it'll widen back out once I get back to work, but for now I'm not looking much further than the living room, where kidlet's in the exersaucer, and the kitchen, where red beans and rice are simmering.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Macroeconomically, it's better to spend than to save. But it's even better to give to a good charity. Andrew Sabl suggests a food bank, and I second that suggestion. The Central Missouri Food Bank has been parked outside our local grocery store for a couple of days, and I finally got around to giving them a bag of food that we weren't using. It was a pathetically small gesture, so I invite you to make me look bad by outdoing me.
Family Financial Memo. I could write one of these myself, but Marc Stober did it better.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Me: When are you leaving for Thanksgiving?

CEO: Tomorrow.

Me: Are you going to be here tomorrow?

CEO: In the morning, yeah. Why?

Me: I made chocolate chip cookies over the weekend.

CEO: *thumbsup*

I may have my occasional weaknesses as an employee, but I do know how to suck up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Scalzi's got a post up on the question of whether inventions every really change human beings. It's an interesting comment thread, and I was inspired to chime in with a list of inventions I think have fundamentally changed humanity:

Basic tools: knife, string, pottery
agriculture (I added this one after talking about the idea with Christie)
intentional fermentation
the written word
abstract math
sailing ships
the compass
reliable clocks
telecommunications (from telegraph to PC)
personal computers

I’ve tried to eliminate from this list anything that simply allows us to do what we were already doing, but faster. At first I was going to eliminate photography from the list, on the grounds that it's just a fast way of drawing, but decided to keep it in because it introduces the concept of true objectivity.

Anybody got anything else they think belongs on the list? Or objections to what is there?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When I read about Waxman ousting Dingell as chair of the energy committee, this is the part that's most interesting to me: It's pretty much an article of faith that America would be better off if Dingell weren't so effective at blocking CAFE increases, which, of course, he had to in order to keep the auto industry happy, which, of course, he had to do in order to win reelection in Michigan. But I suspect it might also be the case that the auto industry would also be better off in Dingell hadn't been so good at blocking increases in fuel efficiency requirements.
Okay, so in a world where Snoop Dogg cooks with Martha, anything is possible.

Oh, and Christie's Mom thinks Coldplay is off the hizzle. Straight up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The future of the Republican Party?

Because I think an intelligent conservatism is a good thing to have in government, I've been thinking a bit about the future of conservatism in America. It's interesting to ponder whether the forces holding the Republican Party together are stronger than the ones that want to tear it apart.

First off, there's the problem of Social Conservatism. If we define conservatism as the desire to resist change, social conservatism is that force applied to American culture. The problem is that American culture is the result of millions of individual choices, so the Social Conservative approach is, essentially, anti-choice. Abortion is a classic example, where the "conservative" stance is to advocate for government interference in the most private decisions of families.

That'd be fine, if it weren't for the Classic Conservatives, who define conservatism as being in favor of less government interference across the board (but particularly when it comes to business), and fiscal responsibility (no/low deficits, low taxes, good value for public funds). This is the wing of the party that has found common cause with Libertarians.

And then there are the xenophobes, who are a particular subset of the Social Conservatives that are particularly cheesed-off that the social change in society has resulted in diminishment of white male privilege, accompanied by an increase in rights and opportunities for women, blacks, hispanics, immigrants, gays, etc. They're a dying breed, but they're vocal as hell, and still have a lot of power in the party (see Tom Delay, for one). The problem is that they're so foul that they drive a lot of people out of the party who might otherwise participate. As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, African-Americans are, as a group, mostly socially conservative. So are Hispanics.

Blacks don't vote Republican because cross-burners do. Hispanics voted for Bush because he reached out to them, but the immigration debate drove them away because the xenophobes took it over, and nobody really stood up to them. McCain sort of did, but then he sold Hispanics out when the primary season started, and they noticed.

There are a lot of conservative, religious gays out there, but the Republicans have, again, doubled-down on xenophobia with their fight against gay marriage. Let's face it, if any group of gays were likely to vote Republican, it was the ones wanting to get married. Now? Not so much.

These are the same forces that are costing them young people, who are becoming less xenophobic with each generation.

What's the solution? In the short term, I think they can hold it together and muster together the occasional majority if they kick the xenophobes to the curb in some spectacular fashion (like nominating Bobby Jindal for President), but they've enshrined homophobia as a core value, which is a long-term losing issue. Ultimately, though, they've got to deal with the fact that they're using two incompatible definitions of "conservative". Ultimately, they'll have to pick one and stick with it.

The question is: will either definition attract a majority of voters?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Early signing, ctd.

I've got a bit more data now, and I think it's coincidence. But it has motivated Christie and I to talk to the folks at her school about signing to see if they're using them yet, so we can reinforce them at home if they are.

Okay, now she's amused

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Herself is not amused

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christie's meeting is approximately here, and I'm staying for a couple of days as well. The hotel is built on a narrow spit of sand between two bodies of water, constantly buffeted by wind and waves. As a midwesterner, my main line of thinking when I see a ten-story building built on a glorified sandbar is "What were they thinking?"

Christie explained, "They're thinking that they want to make a ton of money."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Signing before 5 months?

Kidlet and I are down in Louisiana with her grandparants, and I'm getting made fun of a bit for suggesting that she (at 4 months and 3 weeks) is making her first sign. And I'm skeptical myself, really.

Earlier today, we were sort of hanging our, her in her swing, and me on the couch. She was looking around, but every once in a while, she'd make eye contact with me. It had been an hour or two since she'd eaten. Suddenly, she locked eyes with me and started bringing her right hand to her mouth repeatedly, which is a gesture I've been using, off and on, when I feed her, as the sign for "eat".

She did that for long enough that it really seemed like more than just a random gesture, then she started to fuss a bit, so I decided to fix her a bottle, which she sucked right down. I had Christie on the phone at the time, and I told her I thought the kidlet had made her first sign, told her what happened, and she respectfully disagreed. So did Mary.

She made the same gesture after a dinner of delicious mashed peas (locked eyes, right hand repeatedly to mouth), and sucked down 2 ounces of formula, then chilled for a while on Grandma's lap. Mary, again, was skeptical, especially when kidlet again looked me in the eye and brought her right hand to her mouth.

"No way is this child still hungry," she said, but I made another 2 ounces, and she drank about half of it.

That's what I've got in terms of the pro side. On the counter side, she does sometimes make the hand gesture minus the eye contact, and when she does that, she won't take the bottle. Also, there's the fact that she's only four months old, and that I haven't been even slightly consistent in using the gesture when I feed her, which is what all the books say is necessary.

Like I said, I'm skeptical. I really don't know much about sign language in babies, and my study of language acquisition has been limited, to say the least. And, frankly, I've made fun of friends before for being convinced that their child is some kind of genius. But there was something about the way she locked eyes with me while making the gesture that felt like intentional communication. I realize that's hardly quantifiable, and I'm definitely looking for counter-evidence, but I can't deny that my instinctive reaction was that she was signing to me.

Is that nuts?

Friday, November 07, 2008

I just found out that, in an odd coincidence, my birthday is the Feast of St. Michael in the Orthodox Church.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

As an addendum to my earlier post about how I don't listen to Democracy Now very much because it's boring, I'd like to point out that I turned it on today, and they had Ralph Nader on to talk about the election. That would be the same Ralph Nader that called Barack Obama an Uncle Tom on the radio last night, and refused to back down from it on TV.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes, we can eat cake!

Christie's home today, too, and decided to make a birthday cake for Kate and I. Personally, I think it rocks.

The Youth Vote

Our friends' 4-year old has been asking for weeks "Is Barack Obama President yet?" He tagged along with his dad today, and was very, very upset that he didn't get to vote. Apparently the only thing that appeased him was a promise that they'd have their own election at home tonight.

I have a feeling I know who's going to win that one.
Either I caught the kidlet's cold, or it's a reaction to the flu shot I got yesterday, but I'm suffering from serious bleckiness today. Between her cold and mine, we were all up at 5:30 anyway, so we went ahead and voted at 6:15. It took half an hour, and by the time we dropped in our ballots at 6:45, Christie and I were voters 126 and 129, respectively.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Talking Republicans down

I just got off the phone with a friend who works with a bunch of Republicans who are terrified of Barack Obama, terrified that he's going to actively try to destroy this country. She asked me what she could possibly say to them.

First off, I suggest that they stop listening to Rush Limbaugh and start listening to Bill O'Reilly, who has made talking down terrified Republicans kind of his thing lately. O'Reilly's take on Obama is that he's a decent man who loves his country and wants to do the right thing, even though the two of them disagree severely on policy. If you're genuinely scared, it's not a bad place to start.

Below is a list of Republicans, some prominent, some not, who have publicly endorsed Barack Obama for President. I found this list at RepublicansForObama.org. Go there if you want to see the reasons some of them gave for their endorsements.

Now, I could spend every hour from here to Election Day refuting the various rumors floating around about Sen. Obama, but I don't think it would persuade anyone who is seriously scared of him. All I ask is that you look over this list and ask yourself if these conservative, patriotic men and women would have endorsed Obama if any of those rumors were true.

Well, that, and that they stop listening to Rush. Seriously, the man is in love with the sound of his own voice and the power he has with Republicans in the White House. He'd say anything to hold onto that.

Republicans for Obama:

Jim Leach, Former Congressman from Iowa
Lincoln Chafee, Former United States Senator from Rhode Island
William Weld, Former Governor of Massachusetts
Arne Carlson, Former Governor of Minnesota
Wayne Gilchrest, Congressman from Maryland
Charles Mathias, Former United States Senator and Congressman from Maryland
Larry Pressler, Former Senator from South Dakota
Richard Riordan, Former Mayor of Los Angeles
Lowell Weicker, Former Governor and Senator from Connecticut
Claudine Schneider, Former Congressman from Rhode Island
Harris Fawell, Former Congressman from Illinois
Jim Whitaker, Fairbanks, Alaska Mayor
William Milliken, Former Governor of Michigan
Phil Arthurhultz, Former Michigan State Senate Majority Leader
Linwood Holton, Former Governor of Virginia
Jeffrey Hart, National Review Senior Editor
Andrew Bacevich, Professor of International Relations at Boston University
David Friedman, Economist and son of Milton and Rose Friedman
Christopher Buckley, Son of National Review founder William F. Buckley & former NR columnist
Andrew Sullivan, Columnist for the Atlantic Monthly
Wick Alison, Former publisher of the National Review
Michael Smerconish, Columnist for the Philadelphia Enquirer
CC Goldwater, Granddaughter of Barry Goldwater
Colin Powell, Secretary of State under Bush 43
Ken Duberstein, White House Chief of Staff under Reagan
Douglas Kmiec, Head of the Office of Legal Counsel under Reagan & Bush 41
Charles Fried, Solicitor General of the United States under Reagan
Jackson M. Andrews, Former Counsel to the U.S. Senate, & 1986 Republican Senatorial Nominee for Kentucky
Susan Eisenhower, Granddaughter of President Eisenhower & President of the Eisenhower Group
Francis Fukuyama, Advisor to President Reagan
Rita Hauser, Former White House intelligence advisor under George W. Bush
Larry Hunter, Former President Reagan Policy Advisor
Scott McClellan, Former Press Secretary to President George W. Bush
Bill Ruckelshaus, Served in the Nixon and Reagan administrations
Ken Adelman, Served in the Ford administration
Lilibet Hagel, Wife of Republican Senator Chuck Hagel
Bruce Rabb, Served in the Nixon administration
George C. Lodge, Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Eisenhower
William B. Ewald, Jr., Special Assistant under President Eisenhower
Robert R. Bowie, Assistant Secretary for Policy Planning, Department of state 1953-1957
Jarold Kieffer, Assistant Secretary, Health, Education & Welfare, 1959-61
Roswell B. Perkins, Assistant Secretary, Health, Education & Welfare, 1954-56
Timothy Ashby, Served in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations
Richard S. Seline, Finance Director, Republican Party of Texas
David Caprara, Faith-Based Initiatives Director, Federal Volunteer Service Agency under Bush 43
John Perry Barlow, Former Dick Cheney Campaign Manager

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A break from politics

Alton Brown on Donuts

Well, he does talk about change vs. conservatism, but not really in a political way, just life.
We have a neighbor whose kid has really, really bad allergies, and she's (quite reasonably) nervous about letting them trick or treat. So she's spent the day going around the neighborhood giving special candy to all the houses in the neighborhood so her kids can trick or treat safely.

I've got to admit, that's pretty awesome.
I watched last night's infomercial for socialism live, while the Tivo recorded Next Top Model. Gotta have priorities. If you missed it and wish you hadn't, there's video here.

Basically, I think he nailed it. Watching it, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I felt like there was someone in office who actually cared what was happening with people like me (actually, I can, it was pre-Lewinsky Clinton) and who had the brains and character to fix the economy and handle our foreign policy well.

I could particularly identify with the North Kansas City woman at the very beginning of the program. There was a time when every year was a little bit easier than the year before, as my savings grew and my debt shrank. Things were tight from time to time, but the overall trend was that things were getting easier. Not for the past several years. And that's just on a personal level. I read enough to know that our infrastructure is crumbling, schools are going downhill, fewer people are starting new businesses, and fewer immigrants are coming to this country to make their dreams come true, which is something that's always been a new gain for our economy and our culture.

The country's been going downhill for years now, and the response from the Republican Party has been to treat it like a marketing problem.

I don't know if you've seen it in your part of the world, but the Republicans have been running an ad here locally with a striking visual: an empty chair in the Oval Office. I know it's supposed to be an attack on Barack Obama, telling me that he's not ready, but that's not what I think of when I see that empty chair. I think of the last 8 years.

We need leadership in Washington. Real leadership. McCain loves to pretend that he's the real leader, but just look at the campaign he's running. If running almost entirely negative ads and picking Palin were his ideas, then he doesn't have the character to lead this country. And if they weren't, if the party apparatchiks and campaign consultants railroaded them through, then he's not a leader, he's a figurehead. And we don't need another empty chair in the Oval Office.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just renewed my driver's license. It wasn't as big a hassle as I was expecting, but only because I knew about the Real ID crap, and so went to their web site to see what I needed. It turned out that a passport, social security card, and utility bill were the magic totems that unlocked the gates to continued driving. Well, that and being able to recognize 6 traffic signs with no words on them. Do Not Enter threw me for a second, but I came through in the clutch. Phew.

The clerk was impressed that I had all the right documentation my first time out, and I said, "It's an annoying law, but it's the law."

She had disagreed, citing "all the things people try to get through with", but not elaborating. I wanted to say that I didn't really mean "annoying" as much as I meant "misguided, xenophobic, reckless, and making us all less safe in the cause of winning cheap political points" but I just shrugged and kept my mouth shut, because I really, really wanted my drivers license.

Monday, October 27, 2008

How McCain Can Win

In two words: He can't.

McCain is losing because his campaign has been all over the damn place, which undercuts his core value proposition ("You'll always know where I stand, my friends.") and scares voters in a time of crisis. Even if he were to pick one of his many tracks and stick with it, 9 days is far too short a stretch of time to change the impression McCain has spent the last 6 months creating in the minds of voters.

He can play the woulda, coulda, shoulda game, but unless he's got a time machine, he's has no good options left.
More crazy talk from Get-Off-My-Lawn Man.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm wearing a dark shirt today, and I just caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror and noticed a splurp on my left shoulder that might be spit-up, might be formula, or maybe even infant tylenol (spud got her shots this week and is running a little hot). If it were from anything else, I might be embarrassed, but now I can't stop thinking about how she felt snuggled on my shoulder this morning, and I can't stop smiling.
Just before bed last night, I watched a clip on MSNBC.com of Palin parsing the definition of "terrorist", and it was pretty appalling. Steve Benen has a good summary, but I think I can break it down even more:

Blowing up a bathroom in the Pentagon: Terrorist.

Blowing up an abortion clinic
: "Unacceptable", but not necessarily terrorism.

I'm reminded of the Oklahoma City bombing. I was living in Kirksville, MO at the time, and didn't have a lot of news options, so I ended up flipping between CNN and the 700 Club. Initially, Pat Robertson was angry as hell, calling it an "unprovoked attack on the heart of America" and such, but when it was revealed that the perpetrator was a right-wing extremist, he went from calling it an "attack" to a "tragedy".

And, for the record, The Weathermen were terrorists, as are people who shoot at abortion doctors, as are people who blow up laboratories that experiment on animals, as is anyone who uses violence to advance a political agenda. Even when it's an agenda you agree with.

Cell Phone Only Households

I'm thinking about Pollster.com's analysis of polls that include cell phone only households (like ours) vs. ones with land lines and it's at least possible that the difference could be even greater because Obama's campaign has been so good about getting cell phone numbers, and people with cell phones will most likely be getting multiple GOTV text messages from the Obama camp on November 4th.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sometimes the shallow stuff tells you a lot: Meet Rick Reilly's fantasy football partner - Barack Obama

Update: See this as well.

Palin Interview on NBC

All last week they were talking up their coming interview with Palin. Last night was the first installment, and suddenly, it's an interview with Palin and McCain.

The whole exercise had a certain "bringing your dad to a job interview" vibe.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

John Hodgman: "What I find interesting about this election, as a fake expert, is that it's a referendum on reality."

My thoughts exactly. The whole interview is worth watching, actually.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another pesky fact

The Help America Vote Act requires that new voters show some form of federal ID, which means that none of the bogus registrations turned in by ACORN (as required by law, btw) can result in an actual vote unless the person voting has actually gone to the trouble of creating a fake ID in that name as well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sanity Check

I would imagine my relentless ranting has driven off most McCain fans by now, but I have to get this off my chest regarding the whole "Obama doesn't love America like you and I do" thing. Feel free to use it if somebody steps to you in the next couple of weeks spouting this bullshit.

Obama is a tenured professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. Not only has he made studying foundational document of our nation his life's work, but he's apparently quite good at it. It is completely insane to think anyone would do that who does not fiercely love this country.

McCain supporter thuggery at early voting sites

McCain supporters heckle early voters.

All white mobs screaming at mostly black voters? Wow, nothing untoward there, huh?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother

Great book, and one I'd recommend every American read before the election, just to remind themselves what's at stake. His vision of an American imprisoned by its own security apparatus is entirely too plausible, and keeping that from happening requires eternal vigilance, as the saying goes.

A poem found in a dream

Problem #1

My sister kisses
out of hope.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth
McCain's answer on abortion really pissed me off. First of all, there's the mendacity of saying "I'd never impose a litmus test on my nominees; I only care if they're qualified." and then following it up with "I don't think anyone who thinks Roe v. Wade was decided properly is qualified to be on the Supreme Court" is stunning.

But, really, is there any gesture more telling than McCain's snide air quotes around the phrase "health of the mother"?

That right there tells you everything you need to know about McCain and women's rights.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Our town doesn't have Air America, our NPR station does classical music over lunch, so my lunchtime radio news choices are conservative talk radio or Democracy Now. All due respect to Amy Goodman, but if Democracy Now was a cocktail party, I'd fake a headache, go home, and watch America's Funniest Home Videos. Sometimes it's informative, but it's generally boring as hell. Also, there's a pledge drive going on.

So I end up listening to talk radio, because at least then I have schadenfreude. This is what I have learned:

1. Rush Limbaugh is very afraid, and his listeners are positively paranoid.

2. O'Reilly is mad at McCain for not taking his advice, is proud of being simple, and thinks that the solution to all our economic woes is to "get the bad guys." That's a direct quote.

3. Based on their advertisers, conservative talk radio listeners are impotent, bald tax-dodgers with lousy credit. And they have allergies.
Last night I changed the baby's diaper and put her into her pajamas, all without waking her up. If life were MMORPG, that would be worth a serious XP bonus.
An important fact about ACORN:

If they receive a voter registration card that's been filled out, they are legally obligated to turn it in, even if it's obviously fake. This is to prevent, say, my friends and I from setting up a voter registration table outside our local right-wing mega-church, then throwing out all those registrations.

Another one:

In many of the states where they're being investigated, they actually put the forms they thought fraudulent into a separate batch and flagged them as such when they turned them in, but their flagging was ignored.

Here's the deal: If you think it's good to have as many people as possible registered to vote (and voting), then ACORN is good, and the fake registrations are just a pain in the ass for county clerks to deal with, since fake registrations virtually never lead to actual votes being cast. If you don't, then ACORN is bad.

And if your candidate is losing the race for President, and you're basically losing ground all over the place, then ACORN is a convenient scapegoat that will allow you to a) claim the Obama presidency is illegitimate and b) avoid examining the problems in your own party that led to your defeat.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Coffee Geekery

I'm a bit of a coffee nerd, but I'm an efficiency nerd as well, and the ROI for fancy coffee makers was just never there for me. I do have an espresso machine, and the big thing I learned from it is that it's worth it to pay someone else three bucks to make a complicated coffee drink, because it's a pain in the ass to do it yourself. I've done the french press thing, and it made good coffee, but was a hassle to clean. The vacuum coffee maker was even worse to clean, but the coffee was excellent, and, man, was it fun to watch. Too bad it didn't survive our last move. For a while I followed in Alton Brown's footsteps with a deconstructed drip device, but that didn't pass the Mary test, and Mary drinks more coffee in a one-week visit than I do for the rest of the year. She found my coffee setup more confounding than my entertainment center, and that's saying something. In fact, she actually went out and bought a Mr. Coffee.

That was a bridge too far for me. I can't stand the way coffee tastes when it's been sitting on the hot plate, so the Mr. Coffee had to, at least, be replaced by something with a thermal carafe. The coffee maker Christie got me that Christmas was a good compromise between efficiency and taste.

Somewhere in there, though, Christie finally admitted that she doesn't actually like coffee, and I was back to being the only coffee drinker in the house. I tried one of those pod thingies, but, to be honest, the coffee was both expensive and lousy. Not a good combination. So I was back to making at least half a pot each morning, which meant either drinking more coffee than was good for me, or letting a bunch of coffee go to waste. Neither was a good option.

Finally, two weeks ago, I did something I have done in years. I bought a new coffee gadget, the AeroPress. There are the four things you need to know about the Aeropress:

1. It's fast. I can make a cup of coffee in under a minute, once the kettle's hot.

2. Cleanup is fast and easy.

3. It makes a great cuppa from cheap, pre-ground coffee.

4. It cost under $30.

I still use the Braun when we have guests, but when it's just me drinking coffee, it's Aeropress all the way.
Like Ezra sez, small cheers to McCain for a token attempt to tamp down the flames of xenophobia and racism at his rallies, and major jeers for running a campaign that, on the macro level, continues to fan them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stock drops are the result of rational behavior

Let's assume that X% of stock buys before three weeks ago were margin buys. Now that credit is drying up, one would expect the number of people buying stocks to go down. Which means demand goes down, which means the price goes down.

Now, imagine you're a corporation used to borrowing money to cover spikes in your operating expenses. You do this not because you don't have the money, but because the interest you can earn on that money in the market is higher than the interest it costs you to borrow it. Now that credit is drying up and stock prices are going down, that is no longer the case. In fact, the liquidity crisis is so bad that, even with stocks going down as much as they are, it's still cheaper for you to sell stocks to cover your expenses than it is for you to borrow money, assuming you're able to borrow at all. And if you're not able to borrow at all, then you have no choice but to sell stocks to cover your operating expenses if they're your most liquid asset. More people selling means the price goes down even more.

And now you get into people that depend on their investments for retirement income. In good times, they can live off dividends and the occasional sell-off. Now the dividends are shrinking, and sell-offs net less profit, they have to sell more.

And the price goes down even further.

I'm hoping Paulson's recapitalization plan will help, but the simple fact is that we've all been dependent for too long on easy credit to help us ease the spikeyness of our incomes and outgoes, and no matter what happens in Washington, we're going to have to detox from credit, and that's going to kind of suck.

Gas on a fire

Ta-Nehisi raises what I consider to be a very reasonable point. Namely, that the man who shot MLK was egged on by public figures who demonized King as a communist, and that the McCain crowd is doing the same thing by calling Obama a terrorist-sympathizer.

In any group, there's an extreme minority that is prone to violence. Responsible leaders (MLK is a great example) do everything they can to rein these people in. Irresponsible leaders spout rhetoric that riles up their base, ignoring the fact that a few individuals will be inspired to actual violence. You want examples? Dave Neiwert's been talking about this stuff for years.

For the last 20 years, the right wing has been saying we're at war, that the enemy is less than human, and that the soul of our country is at stake. And those members of their flock that are already unhinged take them at their word and shoot up Unitarian churches, Democratic headquarters, synagogues, raves, gatherings of immigrants, and daycare centers that happen to be on the ground floor of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Progress, without even realizing it

This morning on my way to drop off Sophie, some total fucking moron from Illinois got in the wrong turn lane, then proceeded to force his way into my lane, then go ten miles under the goddamn speed limit (okay, five, but everyone else goes five over, so five's as bad as ten, really) forcing me to get stuck at a light, but traffic was, as it always is at 10 to eight, too tight for me to pass him, and I was forced to endure his idiocy, while he dawdled in front of me all the way onto Stadium, where he managed to go 20 miles under the speed limit (okay, 15) and I said:

"Agh! This is really frustrating." and then looked up and saw a concerned baby in the back seat looking at me in the mirror, and I explained why I was frustrated and what sort of considerations I expected her to have for her fellow drivers once she was old enough to drive, and she seemed to decide it was okay for me to be a bit frustrated, considering that we were already running a bit late.

It was only later that I realized that I didn't use any bad words (even though that jerk from Illinois totally deserved them) and gave myself a gold star in parental driving.
The Financial Crisis, as Explained to My Fourteen-Year-Old Sister — The Bygone Bureau
Annika's new liver is in and seems to be working well.
Since McCain is beating the Ayers drum again, I think it's worth going into the details. Obama and Ayers met when they were serving on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an educational foundation that was funded largely by the Annenberg Foundation (hence the name), whose chair is Leonore Annenberg, whose endorsement John McCain is bragging about.

If Ayers is a terrorist, then Annenberg (and her late husband) gave material support to a terrorist, and McCain should be attacking her for that, not praising her judgment. But Ayers isn't a terrorist, he's just another ego-ridden baby boomer looking back at his youth with rose-colored glasses. And I can understand that. I did some stupid shit when I was in my early twenties, and I've been known to play the "I learned a lot" card when I'm feeling nostalgic. Of course, I didn't blow anything up. At least, not that I can think of off the top of my head.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

An exchange you'll never hear on Antiques Roadshow

Guest: My mother bought this when she was a young woman, and when she passed a few years back, she left it to me.

Expert: And where did she buy it?

Guest: On a rural route outside of Tuscaloosa. She'd been drinking, and missed a tight curve. She'd always had a problem with liquor.
For your daily dose of awwwww: Yes We Can (hold babies).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Interesting take on gender-inequity in pay. Apparently women who become men typically experience a raise in pay, men who become women experience a loss.

McCain's health care plan

For me, the scariest thing about this plan is that it would allow you to buy health insurance from any state. That's one of those things that sounds like a wonderful new freedom, but insurance is regulated at the state level. Being able to buy from any state means that all the insurance companies could relocate to the state with the least regulation, and pull out of anywhere else.

Do you know why all the credit card companies are located in just a couple of places? Because those places have the least regulation. Within a few years, all the insurance companies would have moved to Idaho (or wherever), and we'd all be enjoying the improved customer service and coverage that would come about as the result of this race to the bottom.

Oh, and, as Krugman points out, individual coverage has three times the bureaucracy associated with it as employer-provided insurance. So look forward to more corporate bureaucrats standing between you and your doctor, making rules about what kind of care he's allowed to give you.

If you think I'm kidding, let's talk about how many times my insurance company, which is contractually obligated to provide me with prescription drug coverage, has argued with me about the drugs my doctor has prescribed. One of those was to prevent me from going into anaphylactic shock and dying while they tried to figure out what food I was allergic to. Good times.
I've got this line from The Untouchables running through my head:

"They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way!"
Do the Republicans really want to push the story that Barack Obama once served on a committee with a guy who used to be a Weatherman, when McCain's father-in-law was mobbed up and Palin's got her own history of unsavory characters?

Or is this just another facet of the Right's fixation on the culture wars of the 60s?

Nah. Just another desperate attempt to change the subject.

Friday, October 03, 2008

FYI, Palin lied about the Sudan.
beautiful story

Conversation with a previously undecided voter

Her: I would love it if we had some transit options, gas is killing me having to drive my oldest down to Jeff City for his hockey practice.

Me: Oh, you're a hockey mom?

Her: Ooooh, I do not like her. She just ... bugs me. I'm scared that she really could end up in office. Seriously.

The Palin Debate Flow-Chart

Seems about right to me.
Palin didn't do or say anything incredibly stupid, so by the diminished expectations she created with her Katie Couric interview, she did well. But she only had a handful of canned answers that she used throughout the night, and she was, in general, remarkably content-free.

Now, I realize that I'm in the tank for Obama, but I found her delivery insulting, and her insistence on answering substantive questions with folksy bromides to be infuriating. This country is in real trouble, and talks about it like a sportscaster covering an FFA rodeo.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Dog That Didn't Bark

Interesting Biden story. Basically, the New York Times dug through 30 years of financial transactions and couldn't find a single example of him even bending the rules for his own financial gain.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Beyond Weird

An artist from New York with a fondness for projects involving SCA and LARPers is doing a play inspired by Neuromancer at an outdoor theater in Columbia where your's truly was once in a production of Much Ado About Nothing.


Well, I'll call it probably. There's no mention of it on the Maplewood Barn's schedule for next summer, and his proposal video gets some basic facts about the Barn wrong. But he seems to have gotten funding, and I can't imagine the folks at the Barn turning down his rent money.
One interpretation of this Palin interview excerpt might be that she objects to abortion, and would try to dissuade people from having them, but is opposed to legal penalties for it.

There's a name for that political position. It's called being pro-choice.

There's a more likely explanation, of course, which is that she wants to make abortion illegal by threatening legal action against doctors, but not patients. All the same nasty consequences, but she still gets to claim she doesn't want to throw those poor women in jail. But she can't actually answer Couric's question ("But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?") honestly without sounding like a monster, so she dodges it.
I was just looking through my stats and noticed a visitor from Shanghai back in September. Michelle, if that was you (and you come back in time to see this), drop me a line, I'd love to catch up!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Now I'm sort of wishing that we had decorated the baby's room like a pirate ship, but only because I'd like to have a changing table with a rustic-style sign over it that says "Poop Deck."

Monday, September 29, 2008

The baby's slept for at least 6 consecutive hours every night since Thursday.

Now if we could just get them to be the same 6 hours...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend Update

Yeah, I watched the debates Friday night, and my first reaction was that it was a nice, boring debate that honestly showed where two very different candidates diverge in how they would run things. My second reaction was that both candidates accomplished things they needed to. McCain successfully left his "crazy old man" persona in Washington, except for one brief flash, when he threw out he idea of a spending freeze just so Jim Lehrer would stop asking him questions. Not a great moment for him. Obama not only demonstrated his seriousness and sanity, which he had to do for those viewer who only know him from Limbaugh's crap spewing, but he also reminded everyone of the crazy stuff John's been saying and doing on the campaign trail, like singing "Bomb, bomb Iran" and insulting Spain.

Christie thought McCain's reactions were kind of, well, dickish, and I was willing to give him a pass on that, but the pundits seem to agree. I think it's a fair assessment, if trivial.

Yesterday, though was a whole 'nother thing. We spent the morning and the spud's school, doing yardwork, and we not only met some of the other parents, but I got to climb a tree! Then there was a long, nappy afternoon, followed by a long walk around downtown, art fair, and dinner in the park with Kate and Mara. Pretty much a perfect Saturday, I'd say.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The NYtimes has a great and detailed story on how the bailout deal fell apart, and I've got to say, having read it, that I agree with Mark Kleiman's take. There was a deal, and McCain, with help from House Republicans, torpedoed it for political reasons.

Over lunch, I heard Krugman on the radio, and he dismissed the Republican plan for a capital gains tax holiday as "insane, if true". That seems about right.

Oh, and McCain's going to debate now. Consider that bluff called, I guess. Not a huge surprise, given that his "suspended" campaign was still spewing bile, running ads, and raising money, while he was still giving interviews as a candidate.
According to Travelocity, it's cheaper to fly from Columbia to New Orleans, with a layover in Memphis, than it is to just fly from Columbia to Memphis. I wonder what they'd do if I booked a flight to New Orleans and just skipped the second leg of the trip.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On the way to daycare this morning, I discovered that hearing George Bush's voice on the radio saying, "You need to trust me, I know how to fix the economy" makes my daughter shit her pants.

I'm sure she's not the only one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Of course, Truman came out of the Pendergast machine in Kansas City, so the possibility that McCain got his start in politics via mob money is not particularly surprising, nor particularly relevant. But it does undercut his attacks on Obama re: Rezko. Or maybe it explains them.
Matt Yglesias does a better job than I would of explaining my objections to the bailout. First off, there's the fact that Paulson's been one of the people insisting that everything was fine, up until the point where he announced that we were in a total crisis and needed to act immediately. That's not the sort of thing that makes me think he should be given $700 billion to do with as he sees fit.

And then there's his transparent lie about the lack of oversight in his proposal.

If I were a political cartoonist, I'd draw a picture of a burning house, with Paulson standing in front of it, holding a can of gas, his hand out, saying, "I'm the only one who can fix it, but don't ask me for the details."

Meanwhile, you have people saying things like "the patient has been hit by a car, and is lying on the ground bleeding" in part of their rush to get Congress to sign off on this plan. I'm no expert, admittedly, but I do know a little first aid, and I know that if the patient is lying on the ground bleeding, throwing a bucket of blood on top of them won't help, and starting CPR will probably kill them.

Acting quickly is important, but so is acting correctly.
Worth a quick read: Troopergate from the perspective of an Alaskan attorney.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What the hell? According to White House spokesperson Tony Fratto, "You have to remember, these are not all weak or troubled firms that own mortgage-backed securities. A lot of them are very successful banks and investment houses that have done very well, have been responsible, are holding performing assets that have value. They were not necessarily irresponsible players, and so you have to be careful about how you deal with them."

So they expect us to spend $700 billion dollars to bail out successful companies?

I call bullshit.

decisions, decisions, decisions

When we first got home from the hospital, we had all of these free disposables, and the diapers were too big for newborns, and would have covered up the umbilical, anyway. So, in spite of our best intentions, we weren't able to use the gdiapers that we'd bought. Then she got diaper rash, which combined synergistically with the colic in a fairly explosive way. So we did no diapers as much as possible, and disposables at night, at the doctor's recommendation.

Somewhere in there, we bought a big box of disposables because we thought we'd be sending spud to a daycare that only did disposables, and diapers are cheaper in bulk. Next thing you know, she's 12 weeks old, and we've been doing disposables the whole time. But we still had that gdiapers starter kit on the shelf.

I finally busted them out last week. If you don't know, gdiapers are sort of like cloth diaper covers, but with a flushable lining. They're very environmentally friendly, especially if you consider the odor in your house to be a part of the environment. The environmental benefit is even higher if you have sewage treatment processes like Columbia does.

They're not terribly expensive, but the refills are about 50 cents per, whereas Sam's Club has disposables for about 17 cents each. And they're not widely available. The local health food store carries them somewhat sporadically, and other than that, they're only available online.

I'd like to say "Damn the expense!" but I ran the numbers, and it's costing us about $10 a week to keep our little girl's butt covered. If we used gdiapers just part time, evenings and weekends, it would double our costs. If we kept using disposables at night (they're more absorbent) and did gdiapers the rest of the time, we'd be talking at least $30 a week.

To be honest, we could swing that. Any maybe someday we will. But we've just started paying for daycare, Alimentum isn't cheap, and that extra $20 a week would pay for C. and I to go on dates twice a month, which is much more important to me than environmentalism, I have to admit. Sorry, planet. Wife comes first.

The thing is, I remember when we bought that first big box of disposables. We were at Sam's stocking up on groceries, and we were exhausted, and the baby had just puked all over herself and had her outfit changed, and we were trying to get all our shopping needs taken care of in one trip, before another colicky crying jag came, and Christie said 'diapers', and I grabbed, and we were out of there and on our way home before it even occurred to me that we'd been planning on doing the gdiaper thing.

That's parenting, though, right? We make the best decisions we can at the moment, with the information we've got and the brains we've got, at that moment, and then later, when we're more awake, or better informed, or less emotionally ragged, we second guess and wonder if we could've done better.

And what I'm finally figuring out, is this: If we could've done better, we would've done better.

Regret being one of those nasty emotions that steals your present and traps it in the past, and being present in the present being my number one goal as a dad, I'm going to have to work on spending less time worrying about what I might have done differently, because if I'm driving myself this nuts at 3 months, lord knows what I'll be like at 3 years.
I'm not sure how much energy goes up our chimney in the winter, but this "chimney balloon" might actually be worth the money, and it's certainly the easiest way I've ever seen to insulation a chimney.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I keep getting emails from Twitter, alerting me to the fact that someone is now "following" me on Twitter. Creepy, yes, but also, why? I use Twitter to make myself feel guilty for not working out. I haven't updated in almost a month, and when I do, it's going to be something boring like "30 minutes on rowing machine, misc. weights".

Why do people care? Of course, you read this blog, so maybe I'm asking the wrong people.
If you haven't heard of McCain's Spain gaffe, the basic summary is that he was doing an interview with a Spanish news organization and, if you go by the transcript, it seems like he doesn't know who the Spanish Prime Minister is, or even that Spain is in Europe.

Listening to the audio, it's pretty clear that he was either not paying attention, misunderstood the interviewer, or simply couldn't hear her, so he decided to bluff with some boilerplate about our friends and our enemies.

Which is fine, really. I mean, yeah, I'd rather his first instinct wasn't to bluff like a pleb caught napping in class, but whatever. But as Matthew Yglesias points out, he seems to be willing to piss off a long-term ally rather than admit to a mistake.

That's definitely a problem.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Palin. Sigh.

Are you as tired of Palin scandals as I am? And yet they keep coming. They're like American Idol contestants at this point, but in reverse. Every week, another batch!

First off, according to the AP, her Attorney General has told the troopergate investigative committee that her employees won't be honoring the subpoenas they were issued. His explanation is that "the employees are caught between their respect for the Legislature and their loyalty to the governor".

I feel bad for them, I guess, but that's not exactly a legal justification for ignoring a subpoena. This freedom to ignore subpoenas is just one more relic of the Bush administration we can't afford to hang on to.

Of course, the whole investigation is bogus anyway, according to the campaign. The real reason (this is new, by the way) that she fired Monegan was that he was going to go over her head to Washington seeking funding to fight sexual assault, which is an epidemic in Alaska, and which Palin had refused to make a priority. Specifically, it was a federal program to fight the sexual abuse of children.

So, according to the campaign, Monegan was fired because he wanted to fight sexual abuse of children, and Palin didn't. And this is their defense of Palin.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What I've learned about colic, and babies

I was never an "oh, let me hold the baby" kind of guy. I just wasn't. Frankly, I wasn't much interested in infants until language acquisition started, at which point I could at least get academically interested. Which ended up meaning that I pretty much knew bupkis about babies before Christie got pregnant, at which point I started reading everything I could get my hands on. How ignorant was I? Well, I changed my first diaper in the hospital.

I still wouldn't say I'm good with babies. But as the colic specialist said, I'm good with this one. As I've written about colic, I've noticed that I get a fair number of people coming to my blog from searches on "baby won't stop crying" or "baby cries when I lay her down" and so on. I've done a lot of those searches myself, and my heart goes out over the wires to anyone doing late night googling to find out if their baby is really okay.

For those people, here's a catalog of what I now know about colic:

What it is: I've already given the basic definition, which is uncontrollable crying in an otherwise healthy baby. Most doctor's seem to think it's a gut thing, but the specialist we went to is actually a gastroenterologist, and he thinks differently, based on something like 40 years of experience. His take is that these are babies with a fiery temperament who aren't good at self-calming, and don't deal well with the variety of experiences that the world outside the womb provides them with. They're particularly bad with transitions (awake to sleeping, daytime to nighttime, etc.). They tend to have a lot of gas because they swallow air when they're crying, but the gas isn't what causes the colic.

What about pain? He had me lay the baby down, at which point she would start crying, then pick her up, and she would calm. That kind of on/off crying, he said, is textbook colic, and he sees it as proof there's no pain. Heartburn is a frequent suspect thrown up for colic (I know we've pointed a finger in that direction many times), but think about when you have heartburn. Lying down makes it worse, but it doesn't just go away when you sit up. It hangs around for a while. But medicine makes it go away completely. The results we saw when we gave our baby Zantac (maybe less crying, but still some) vs. what we saw when we picked her up (able to completely calm her) were the exact opposite of what you'd expect if it were heartburn.

Why did it get better when we did _____? Babies mature out of colic. Sometimes that's all that happens. As more than one expert has pointed out, if you keep trying stuff, eventually the colic will go away on its own, and you'll think the last thing you tried is what worked. In our case, switching from breastmilk to hypoallergenic formula meant a lot less gas, and gas pain was one of the things that would trigger a hellacious crying jag. We weren't fixing the colic, really, just reducing one of her triggers, which left her free to be a happy baby every now and again. Christie kept pumping, and now she's reintroducing breast milk, with much better results.

Accept the fact that you're nuts: Your baby is screaming at you, and you're fantasizing about sleep, and thinking of new experiments to perform, trying to figure out what in the hell is wrong. That's normal. You will go a little crazy, people will say very not helpful things, and ideas will come to you at 2 in the morning that will not, thank god, survive the light of day. For instance, when Christie was first reintroducing breastmilk, we both had middle of the night moments when we were convinced the problem was her milk. Of course, I'd had the same thoughts about formula, just a few weeks before. You are sleep deprived and under enormous stress, so make allowances for your own emotional state.

Look her in the eye I lamented to Christie once that I spent so much time thinking of Spud as a problem to manage that I sometimes forgot that she was a person. It's easy to do that when all you see are gums and uvula. But one night, about two in the morning, I was staring at her in total bewilderment, wishing I knew what the problem was so I could fix it, and she stopped screaming, opened her eyes and looked at me with that same look of total confusion. Now, maybe she was just mirroring my expression, but it was my first person-to-person connection with my daughter, and it was over the fact that neither of us had the slightest idea why she was crying.

Pretend to be calm Everybody told us that we needed to be calm, because babies take their emotional cues from their care givers. That's so true, but telling the parent of a colicky baby to be calm is like telling a man falling out of an airplane to pop his chute. Believe me, if we could have been calm, we would already be calm. So I'm telling you to fake it. When she cries, smile. When she screams, smile. Don't oversmile, or you'll end up looking like the cryptkeeper. Just think of something that makes you happy. Like silence. And smile just enough that she'll know what one looks like when it's time to make one. Count your breaths. Think of what calm people look like, and try to make your outside look like that. Don't worry about what's going on inside, because you can't really do anything about it. Just let it go.

Expectations and aspirations: Speaking of letting go, you'll be doing a lot of that. You might have goals of sleep training. Or breastfeeding exclusively, or not exposing your baby to polka music. But you're not in charge anymore. You've got a little tyrant running things now, and if you're going to ever get any rest, you'd better learn to appease her needs. There's a reason why they play tapes of crying babies at Guantanamo. It. Is. Torture. You need to have compassion for yourself, or else you will break. Get help. Find a good babysitter and hire them for as much time as you can. We had a woman come in four hours a day, five days a week, for a month. If you can at all arrange it, go on a date. You'll feel guilty as hell, but you need to see the rest of the world every now and again. Set clear shifts with your partner. When you're on, you have two responsibilities: the baby and letting your partner rest. When you're off, you're off. Read a book, take a nap, whatever. It's your time. Be selfish. At shift change, do some prepwork, like cleaning bottles, picking up blankets, or whatever needs doing that takes two hands.

Tricks for Calming the Baby:

Colic hold: Billie calls it "monkey on a branch", and that's kind of what it looks like. The baby is lying on top of your forearm, limbs hanging on either side. You can do it like this, with the baby's head in your hands, or, when they're smaller, turned the other way, with her head in the crook of your elbow. Lately, Spud's gotten so big I can barely reach her head if I try to do it one handed, so I need to use my other hand to support her head. When she's really cranky, I do a move I call the "tommy gun", where I jiggle her and move her back and forth, like Al Capone strafing a room. Christie has her own techniques, and Spud seems to like different things from different people. She actually gets mad when I sing Christie's special calming song.

White Noise: Spud likes the vacuum so much we've considered changing her name to Dyson. It works when nothing else does. Rain sounds work pretty well, too. Another bright side is that white noice drowns out voices, which makes it harder for you to hear the baby, which helps with your nerves. And if your partner is trying to sleep, it'll help them as well.

Occam's Razor: I've been 45 minutes into a horrific crying jag before I realized she might need her diaper changed. Duh. And the clock can help guide you about hunger, but babies do go on growth spurts that leave them more or less constantly hungry. Do the same check for yourself. Are you hungry? Have you had anything to drink lately? Take care of your body as best you can. This time period is going to be hard on you, physically, but do what you can.

Music: Dancing with the baby is often very calming.

Boredom: Sometimes they want to see something new, look out the window, play on the playmat, etc. Try it and see.

Overstimulation: Sometimes the opposite is true.

Swinging: Get the baby in a good, firm hold, and yourself in a solid stance, and twist back and forth at the waist. It's good for your abs, and it's often very calming for the baby. Oddly enough, I found that if I positioned myself with a light behind me so that she was in light, then dark, then light as I swung with her, it sort of hypnotised her into calmness. I don't know why, but it worked. Sometimes.

Nothing works all the time and sometimes you're just in for a long ass night of screaming baby. They suck. I have no wisdom to offer on this point except to say that sometimes life sucks. Sorry about that. House rules, I guess.

2011 Update:

Kid #2 actually does have reflux, and it is so, so different from colic.  I mean, really.  If he hasn't had his Zantac, he fusses every time he spits up, and cries for almost half an hour after every feeding, but if he's had his Zantac, nothing.
Count the Lies - McCainPedia

Yes, this site is from the Democrats. But it's the best resource I can find that catalogs the many and various lies coming out of the McCain camp. As Steve Benen has observed, these people even lie when the truth would suffice. And I say lie, because that's what they are. When you say something that's not true once, it might be a misstatement. But when it's been pointed out to you that it's not true, and you keep repeating it anyway, well, that's a lie.

I got a master's in English at a time when Postmodernism was ascendant, and one of the things that drove me out of the field was the stubborn insistence that all truth is contingent at best, and arbitrary at worst. I've done the reading, and I acknowledge that actually knowing the 100% sure and certain truth is damn near impossible in most situations, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I've certainly bumped my head against it enough times to know. My dislike of absolute relativism was one of the few things I had in common with the conservatives of that era.

If you'd told me then that twelve years later we'd have Republicans running for President on a platform of "the truth is whatever we say it is", I'd never have believed you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Have you seen those AIG ads? The ones with little kids pestering their parents about money, cataloging all the things they ought to be worried about, until the parents say, "It's okay, we're with AIG. It's taken care of."?

Yeah, not so much.

Over the last eight years, my mind has turned time and again to a George Will column I read back in 1988, when George H.W. Bush got the Republican nomination, and Will, who was not a fan, wrote, "How much damage can a bad president do, anyway?"

I think we're starting to get a fairly clear picture of that, and there are two categories of damage we're seeing.

Iraq is a sin of commission, a war we didn't need to be in, driven by the passions of a man given too much power by the circumstances, namely by the events of September 11th.

Which leads me to the second class of fuckups, the sins of omission. What's the difference? For the non-theologically inclined, let's boil it down: A sin of commission is your buddy driving your boat into a log because he thought he could jump it. A sin of omission is the moron who turns on the cruise control of his RV, then goes in the back to make a sandwich.

I think it's clear by now that Bush and his gang of "government never did anyone any good" conservatives had no interest in doing the job of government. They wanted the power, and the nice offices, but either didn't understand the responsibility, or didn't care.

9/11: Those who took Bin Laden's threats seriously were sidelined, and when they finally got a meeting with the boss to talk about it, they were told, "You've covered your ass, now." That quote says so much, doesn't it?

Katrina: The same crew who claimed to be the only ones capable of handling a terrorist attack had three days warning that a major catastrophe was coming, and they did nothing to prepare, and little to respond until they turned on CNN and realized that their asses were not, as it were, covered.

The housing/credit crisis: Phil Gramm actually laid the foundation for this back in December of 2000 by inserting radical deregulation of the banking industry into a 262-page, last-minute spending bill. Not knowing what was in it, Clinton signed it, and passed the problem to his successor, whose free-market ideology and legendary lack of attention to detail meant he would never re-regulate.

To revise my earlier analogy, I guess you could say that Phil Gramm turned off the auto-pilot, and Bush turned the pilot's seat around so he could schmooze with the first-class passengers.

My point, I guess, is that 8 years ago, we could be forgiven for thinking of politics as a kind of sporting event, where the Royals are heroes and the Yankees villains no matter who the actual players are, or how they're playing. Even 4 years ago, I could see that.

But our nation has serious problems right now, and of the two people running for president, only one of them is putting forth serious solutions. The other has no plan for the housing crisis, no policies on lending, no interest in regulation, and no economic plan beyond cutting taxes for the richest of the rich (which includes himself), and taxing your health insurance benefits.

As Molly Ivins used to say, policies have effects, and people's lives are really touched by what happens in Washington.