Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Good writing on health care that makes the very salient point the John McCain has had government-run health care literally since birth.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stephen Webber stopped by the house the other day. He's running for the Missouri House seat the Jeff Harris is vacating to run for Attorney General. I haven't met his opponent, Cande Iveson, so I can't make a direct comparison, but I like Webber a lot.

Most of all, I like how young he is. He's obviously devoted to the political system, and I like the idea of giving a young Democrat his start. Lord knows Missouri needs more of them. What I don't like about him is that the bio on his web site is an image, instead of raw text, making it hard to copy and paste into other media.
Somebody must be messing with me: Redbelt is a martial arts movie written and directed by David Mamet, about a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor named Mike Terry who lives by a strict code of honor until he's forced to prove himself in the ring. It's like somebody decided to make a movie of this blog, right?

And could there be a better choice to play me than Chiwetel Ejiofor?

Seriously, though, they had me at "David Mamet martial arts movie".

Three Goals, One To Do

Goal One: Be there when Chipmunk wins the Nobel Prize. (or a Pulitzer, or a Nebula, or an Oscar, or, you know, whatever. I'm not picky.)

Goal Two: Be able to play with Chipmunk without hurting myself, have the energy and muscle capacity to do the lion's share of work around the house while Christie's recovering.

Goal Three: Have good habits established so when Chipmunk gets here, it's easy for Christie to start going back to the gym.

Extra Bonus Goal: Don't waste the money that we're already paying for the gym.

To Do: Go to the gym regularly.

Progress: I've gone 2-3 times each of the last three weeks, which is a lot better than zero, which is how often I was going. I sprained my foot about the time Christie got pregnant, so we simultaneously fell off the wagon. And this foot sprain has turned out to be a persistent bugger, so I couldn't do the treadmill, or the treadclimber, and I wasn't terribly excited about the bike. I tried the elliptical, and it left me hurting as well. At this rate, I was worried that my cardio was going to come from one of those things with the hand pedals you see the old guys on.

Then I remembered the rowing machine. I'd never used one because they looked, well, tricky. And there is a bit of technique involved, but nothing you can't learn in five minutes from Google. In terms of heart rate, I'm finding that the sky is pretty much the limit, once you condition your muscles. In fact, last night I kept going over my target zone. Conditioning the muscles is the hard part, actually. If you decide to take up the rowing machine, don't just jump on and do 30 minutes. Start with 5 minutes. That'll most likely be more than enough to leave you sore. Ramp up from there. It's taken me four workouts to finally get to the point where I can do 30 minutes.

Which muscles does it work? Pretty much all of them. But I'm sure some will stand out. My trapezius (upper back and shoulders) and lattisimus dorsi (lower back) hurt the most after a workout, but those are also the ones that hurt the most after a day of picking up and setting down babies and baby toys (or a day in the workshop, or doing yardwork), so I consider this a feature, not a bug. I want that core body strength in place before Chipmunk gets here.

As cool as rowing is, I want to caution you about some serious issues that can result from the incorrect use of a rowing machine. I don't know of any, but I'd really like to be able to say there were some, because most gyms only have a couple of machines, and I like knowing that I'm one of only a handful of people who will use it, which means I don't have to worry when the gym is crowded.

Our gym had two, but the first time both machines were occupied at once, a staffer came up with a third machine and rolled it into place next to us. Maybe I don't need to worry about not getting a machine. Maybe in a few years, all the recumbent bikes will be replaced with rowers. But maybe not. Can't be too careful.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Yglesias' post on the house/school treadmill has me thinking about how failing urban schools affect sprawl. I know that in Kansas City, most people with kids tend to buy outside the Kansas City School District, unless they can afford private schools. I've heard of similar problems in St. Louis, but I don't know first hand.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Wisdom of Kelyn, Age Four

On Physics:

Upon dropping pachinko balls that roll across the floor: "Oh, man, more gravity."

On Time Travel:

Mike: I try to make things easy for Future Mike. Everything that Present Mike does is one less thing that Future Mike has to worry about.

Emily: I try to do that too, but Present Emily sometimes forgets.

Mike: That's why I have Future Mike as a backup. If Present Mike drops the ball, Future Mike can pick up the slack.

Kelyn, from the back seat: But what if somebody kills you?

Friday, April 25, 2008

These look like so much fun: Dueling Space Marines Copter Set.

Via Geekdad.
I was looking at the pop-tart box in my desk drawer and noticed that they have an offer on the back for a free Barbie or Hot Wheels step counter. A pedometer? That has got to be the lamest free toy with purchase ever.

And, yes, I keep pop-tarts in my desk drawer. What of it?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Christie, they're showing Some Like it Hot at Stephens Park on July 11th. Could be a good candidate for first post-baby outing. On the other hand, it starts at 9 pm, by which time we'll probably be unconscious.
Y'all know me, and you know I'm a political junkie. But I haven't been talking politics because I'm kind of tired of the race right now. Before Pennsylvania, the state of the race was that Obama was ahead in the popular vote and ahead in delegates. Clinton's people were very good at coming up with counter-factuals and rules changes that would put her ahead, but in the game they were playing and according to the rules everyone agreed to, Obama was winning.

Pennsylvania was her last chance to change that. Her support there was strong, the population is large, and they have a lot of delegates because they're a dependably Democratic state. But she needed to win by more than 200,000 votes to take the lead in the popular vote (if we change the rules and count Michigan and Florida) and by some unattainable margin to pull ahead in delegates. Basically, her only path to victory was to get ahead in the popular vote, and convince the superdelegates with a combination of narrative, spin, and vote counts that they ought to overrule the pledged delegates and nominate her.

She barely got the vote count she needed. The margin of victory (9.34% by my count) was nowhere close to what she needed, but not so low as to knock her out of the race. Basically, Pennsylvania didn't change the race, except for two things.

Thing One: There are no more really big states. Which means taking the lead isn't really an option. Obama is winning on points. To create a perception of momentum, Clinton needs a series of big victories, and polling indicates that's not going to happen.

Thing Two: She's broke. Yes, she's raised some new money off last night's victory, but her campaign is still millions in the red, while Obama has $40 million in the bank. That's going to be hard to overcome.

Because of Thing One, she's basically only got one path left to the nomination, which is through the superdelegates. She needs to convince them that Obama is incapable of winning the general election. The problem is that convincing the party elite to ignore the electorate and put her in the top spot will cause a lot of hurt feelings, and would cause enough dems to stay home in November to render her unelectable. So, basically, she needs Obama to self-destruct somehow, while she soldiers on, which Thing Two makes it very hard for her to do.

Regardless of the merits of her campaign or herself, I just don't see a path to victory for her here.

Update: Thing Two is apparently no longer true. She's raised a lot of money off her Pennsylvania victory, and is now in a position to keep contesting the nomination. Thing One still holds, but here's an interesting take on the long primary season and its benefits for Democratic datamining efforts.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New railing, part two

Well, it's tomorrow, and I've managed to do a partial dry fit of the pieces, cut the railing to length, and done a bit of problem solving. I don't, alas, have any pics because the dry fit came after a long day of cleaning (my parents are coming this weekend, as well as some other folks, and that always inspires cleaning), and I sort of forgot that I wanted to take pictures until everything was already apart. But that's okay. The next dry fit is going to be more impressive, anyway, because it'll have the middle balusters in place, and the newel post trimmed to size.

One thing I'm finding is that this is going to require a lot of tweaking in place. There's a reason why, on most construction sites, the guy who does the stairs is an expert. It's not that a framer can't build stairs, but it'd take a while. Similarly, this project is going to take more than a couple of days, I suspect.

I'll admit, I probably could have gotten more done if I wasn't committed to ending the weekend with a relatively clean workshop. The upside of having the workshop in the garage is ease of access and plenty of fresh air. The downside is that if I don't clean up after myself, Christie and I are tracking sawdust into the house for a week. Actually, that's sort of an upside. The basement workshop at the old house was out of the way enough that I could walk off and leave a project in mid-mess, and if you think a dank basement smells bad, you should smell a dank basement with a layer of sawdust on the floor. Ugh.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New railing for the open stairs - part one

We've got this open staircase between the guest bath and the living room. It's nice visually, but there are obvious safety issues, and not just for little kids. I know, for instance, that Christie's mom is always a little nervous going up and down them. There are actually two issues with the stairs. The first is that the railing stops short at the top, so you've got to freehand the first two steps. I'll be dealing with that someday soon. This weekend, I'm tackling the lack of an outside railing.

I don't want to give up too much space on the stairs themselves, and I don't want to try to drill holes into the tops of all those treads. There's just too much potential to screw it up. So I'm going to attach the balusters to the outside edge, and I'm just making plain rectangular ones from 3/4 inch plywood. Will they flex too much? I hope not, but I won't know till they're in place. For the railing, I'm using a basic round railing, but I ran a dado the length of it to receive the balusters. I made it the depth of the plywood partly for the extra surface area (better glue adhesion) and also so I can use plywood strips to fill the spaces between the balusters.

I'm addressing my flex worries in a couple of different ways. The newel post will be attached to the bottom step with two lag screws, and screwed to the second step for good measure. And in the picture to the right, you can see where I've notched the top of the railing to attach it to the beam that runs along the edge of the staircase.

More tomorrow. I'm taking the rest of the night off. Between cleaning the workshop to get ready for this project and doing the work I've done so far, I'm beat. To quote an old Le Guin book, "Tired is stupid." If I try to do more tonight, I'm liable to screw something up.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Check out yogabeans! if you're interested in seeing a re-enactment of an incredibly dysfunctional yoga class done with mangled old action figures. Personally, that kind of thing is right up my alley.
This could be a start at something good, or it could be pretentious twaddle that I grow to hate, but when a line pops into my head, I try to write it down:

We're drawn to perfection like the ocean is drawn to the moon,
and no one blames the tide for falling short of the sky.
Watching mixed martial arts with a five-year-old. She makes a good argument that it's better than, say, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, because there are real consequences to the violence, making it sort of an antidote to cartoon violence.

But I still think I'd catch a lot of grief from Christie if I did this with Chipmunk.
So the other day we were at the bookstore, and I was looking through the bargain books, looking, so to speak, for a bargain, and I found myself flipping through a book on taming clutter and keeping a clean house, and this one line really leaped out at me about not buying stuff you don't think you'll use, so I didn't buy the book.

The end.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I know it's a little wrong, but I'm taking great satisfaction today in having done our taxes the first week of March.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More pics of the baby's room. I would write a longer post but Christie and I cleaned everything this weekend. Everything. And reorganized the kitchen to make room for baby bottles and such.

As a result, I am completely exhausted.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time -
The Carbon Implications of Biodegradability
Finding out that Stanley still sells replacement parts for an eighty year old hand plane reminds me of another old tool story.

When I bought my first house, my parents showed up with a load of boxes from their basement (mostly stuff I'd stashed down there post-college), and my dad's old Craftsman tablesaw, which he'd recently replaced. I'm not sure if the tablesaw was older than me or not, but it must be close, because I can't remember a time when it wasn't down there in the basement.

A few weeks later, I was down in my own basement making some sawdust when the saw quit working. Luckily, my dad is the kind of guy who keeps the manual, so I dug into it. I ended up with the saw strung out in parts across the basement floor, as I took a voltmeter to it, bridging each gap, trying to figure out which link in the chain was broken. The problem turned out to be the power switch.

I turned, again, to the manual, and found an exploded diagram of the saw, and noted the part number for the switch. All I needed to do, I thought, was find out if Craftsman still made that switch. If they did, I was golden. If not, I was going to have to get creative.

Manual in hand, I headed upstairs to check the Craftsman website and see what I could see. Then I noticed that there was a 1-800 number printed underneath the diagram of the saw. What the heck, I thought, and dialed the number.

"Craftsman parts" said the cheerful voice on the other end of the line.

The switch cost $9, with shipping, and was in my hands in a couple of days.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The New Cult Canon: Primer - I really need to see this movie, not the least because it was made by a friend of a friend.
Interesting article on behavior modification in toddlers.
Over Thanksgiving, Christie's dad gave me an old Stanley #78
rabbet plane
to rehab. So far I've flattened the sole (mostly but not all the way), sharpened the iron, and removed the bulk of the rust from most of the flat surfaces. There are a lot of surfaces still to clean up, and a couple of parts to replace (one screw broke during disassembly, and I believe the depth stop is missing), but it's already a working plane. I pulled out some old mulberry I've been playing with and the new plane worked it beautifully.

Two things I should mention about this plane:

First is that it is a rabbeting plane, which isn't something I need to use that often, but if you take off the fence and the depth stop (which is already missing), you have a shoulder plane, which I've been wishing I had for a variety of projects.

Second is a note to self that the depth gauge is part# 16704X and is included in Spares Kit 14 (Ref. No. 12-713), price $10. according to the Stanley Tool Parts Catalog. Man, I love old tool companies. And thanks to Howard Ruttan for advice on rehabbing old tools.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

If you use gmail (and if you don't, why don't you?), consider this plug in that lets you manage to dos (via Remember the Milk) in your gmail window. I just installed it, and I'm loving it.
Christie's due in June. The Springfield, MO Grizzly Tent Sale is also in June. Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Sigh. Maybe next year.
Via Daddy Types, here's a column from Wired and a 2006 article that influenced it. The topic for both is the pleasure of actually working with your hands, but the older article is writing about the decline, and the newer column is about the resurgence of maker culture.

My personal take is that these things come in waves. The Art and Crafts movement was driven by reaction to the industrial revolution and a desire to return to personal craftsmanship. The maker movement is the same reaction, but to the information age.

Mary, I particularly think Rob might like these articles, as they get into the difference between engineering that happens entirely in the computer and engineering where you sometimes get your hands dirty..

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I've put up pictures of the baby's room. There will be more as we get more time, but so far I've at least got pictures of the wall decorations up, which Christie and I pretty much devoted the weekend to. Except for the embroidery. Christie's been working on that for quite a while now.

More here.
I watched a child play chicken
with his father's attention,
and the highway.

He'd take a step toward the road,
look behind to see if
his father, packing the car,
had noticed. Then another.


The last I saw before my turn,
he was inches from the shoulder,
looking back.
Might be worth adding to the baby registry: DeWalt 18V Cordless 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac

Monday, April 07, 2008

You may remember that I recently bought the Scary Sharp System from Rockler. I've had time now to sharpen one garage sale chisel and two plane irons, and my verdict so far is: Wow.

First off, the aforementioned tools are now (on the cutting edge, at least) shiny. And I'm starting to see the differences between the tools. The cheap, beat to hell chisel sharpened up very quickly, which makes me think it will dull up just as fast. The plane irons took a long time just to flatten the bevel. And, actually, there are significant sections of both plane irons that are still a bit rough, which is a sign of how far from flat they were when they were shipped from the factory.

On the other hand, they were extremely cheap, and they do seem to have been made of good steel. And, damn, are they sharp now. I'm going to have to remember to be careful about cleaning chips from the throat, as the cutting edge is definitely sharp enough to cut skin now (and, no, I didn't draw blood).

If you're not a tool geek, and are confused by terms like iron, throat, frog, sole, chipbreaker, etc., and you don't like being confused, Wikipedia's a pretty good reference on the anatomy of a plane.

All in all, I'm impressed with the system. While it takes a while to do the initial flattening, it would take even longer to do it on a stone, and because this is on glass, I know it's flat, while a sharpening stone becomes less flat the longer you use it. There are power tools that do the same job, but grinding wheels aren't good for this kind of sharpening, and this system is significantly cheaper than mechanical sharpeners that keep the blade cool (preserving its temper) and can handle multiple angle bevels.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Kathy G has a post up in praise of pound pups, and she's got a point. The downside of going to the pound, though, is all of the dogs you know you can't save, which may be why my parents didn't take me with them when they picked out the dog we had throughout my childhood. I've heard many reports of heartbreak and crying.

I was actually in college the first time I went to the pound, and I actually found it to be a profound lesson the limits of human goodness. I wanted to save every animal in there, but it simply wasn't possible.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More Home Inspection Nightmares from This Old House.

These two are my favorites.
Her: I like our waiter. He seems nice.

Me: Me, too; he carded me!

Her: That must have felt nice, considering you're almost forty.

Me: It did, yes. Briefly.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

His bowing game is a silly reason to want to put Obama in the White House, but here's a serious reason to wish for a woman commander in chief: At the Los Angeles VA, more women are seeking treatment for being raped by a fellow soldier than for being wounded in combat. And many of the perpetrators received a slap on the wrist, if any punishment at all.