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 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