Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Coming of Age in the Aughts

I really enjoyed this essay from Courtney Martin. I'm not a Christian anymore, and there was much in my church upbringing that I was glad to jettison, but there was a consistent thread that the world does not love those who do good, and that to continue to do good in spite of the world requires strength of character, will, and resolve. I'm an obstinate little bugger, so that message always resonated with me.

Of course, that's a common thread in pop culture as well, so maybe I just got it from X-men comics.

The "Kill the Bill" lefties

Eh.

It's possible that they're just that pissed off, and are throwing a tantrum. But we already know that part of why Lieberman was so opposed to the Medicare buy-in was because Anthony Weiner (D - NY) thought it was a good idea. So maybe they're just acting like they hate the health care bill so that we can get it past Lieberman, et al.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New York’s 23rd District

Looks like the teabaggers managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in New York's 23rd. How did this happen? Well, the far right conservatives were so sure that there's a hidden majority of wingnuts out there that they poured everything they had into undercutting the moderate Republican candidate and promoting one stamped "Glenn Beck Approved For Your Protection!"

Of course, they weren't confident enough in their agenda to try it in a normal district, they had to try it in a district that hasn't sent a Dem to Washington since the Civil War. It was the safest election possible in which to try this strategy, and it failed.

I'd like to say that this is good for the Republican Party and good for the country, as it will demonstrate clearly to the fringe that they need to be able to make peace with the moderates in their party, and maybe, just maybe, we could have a Republican party who once again cares about responsible governance. But the wingnuts are allergic to facts, scoff at data, and consider learning to be a sign of weakness, so I seriously doubt that will happen.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Wow

The amount of work that must have gone into this is staggering, unless he did it all from his head, which would also be staggering, but in a different way.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sometimes the headline is the story

Microwaving Peeps With a Beloved Children’s Book Author.

"Conservative" dems?

Since the two dems currently threatening to help Republicans filibuster the health care bill both have spouses that work for the health care industry, and receive tons of money from from that same industry, can we please stop calling them "conservative" Democrats, or, even worse, "fiscally conservative" since the public option they're opposed to would save money for everyone not in the health insurance business? Can we just call them "corrupt"?

In other news, this is childish, but very funny.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So What Is the 'Opt-Out' Compromise? | Talking Points Memo

Josh Marshall lays it out.

I would go a bit further and say that opting out will end up being an economic loser in the long run for any red states that choose to go that way, as new companies will probably be more likely to relocate to states with the public option.

At least, that's what I think will happen, because I think the public option is good policy. The nice thing about this compromise is that we'll be able to gather actual data that either refutes or supports that hypothesis.

In the short term, I don't think this is the best approach in terms of the public good, but I do think it might be better long term policy in terms of gathering data and building a strong national healthcare policy.

Spooky Ruins

This Old House has a nice photo gallery of old ruins and abandoned buildings that includes this creepy description: "The bright snowscape and generous space evoke a sense of peace and harmony—until one looks closer to discover frantic scratch marks still left on the walls."

Nice.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My latest million dollar idea

One of the problems in our current healthcare system is that it discourages people from starting their own business, because their healthcare is shackled to their jobs. So if we fix that, what's going to happen? Are the best and brightest employees going to start jumping ship in order to start their own businesses? That's got the potential to be a huge problem for big corporations, and I have a potential solution, inspired by our former president's latest foray into inspirational speaking:

De-motivation seminars. It should be pretty cheap to set up, actually. The vast majority of small businesses fail within a couple of years, and a lot of those people end up bankrupt. That means there are tons of people out there with very compelling stories about how they had a nice, safe, boring job in a cubicle somewhere, but they left it all behind to chase their dreams and ended up bankrupting their families and ruining their lives. The nice thing is that we can probably pay these people peanuts, and then charge companies a ton to help them keep their employees chained to their desks by fear of bankruptcy.

Funny

Epic-fail-prophecy-fail

From Failblog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Middle of the night insight

If the news networks were doctors, MSNBC would be the specialist who drives a fast car and loves to prescribe the latest drug, even if there's an old one that works better. CNN would be the grizzled old doc who hasn't read a journal article in 20 years.

Fox would be your friend's uncle who claims to have one year of medical school, but really has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from some internet school, and currently runs a macrobiotic bookstore and libertarian restaurant, whatever that is.

It should be noted that I don't actually get any of these channels.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Holding Action

This weekend, I replaced one thermostat, one garbage disposer, 8 cabinet door handles, and two lightbulbs. There was some increase in functionality with some of those replacements, but mostly it was just about keeping the house working properly. Sometimes, that's enough, I guess.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This analysis would seem to support the repeal of helmet laws if and only if the rider has a current organ donor card.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How I woke up

The last thing I remember from the dream was a trio of women in my hotel room, the oldest and largest of which said, "Ms. Taylor said you have need of vashing your hair. You vill disrobe."

At which point the kid woke me up, thank God.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Flashforward

I've been watching, and tonight's episode was annoying. There was what seemed like a significant bit of dialogue early on between two of the major characters about who's going to pick their daughter up from school, and then the protagonist, who said he was going to pick her up, runs off to Germany.

I'm expecting him to realize at some point that he got caught up in work and forgot his daughter, but she's not mentioned or shown for the rest of the episode. That little bit of dialogue was, I guess, supposed to just be filler, but when you have a character say "I'm going to do this thing," and they don't, that's a plot point, not filler.

Maybe I'm making too much of a little thing, but I spent half the show worrying about his daughter. When the promos for the show are constantly saying "Everything is important," you can't just drop threads like that.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Giant Pool Of Money

This Planet Money podcast, called The Giant Pool Of Money is fascinating. One of the more interesting thoughts it triggered is that the global store of capital (the Giant Pool of Money) was bigger before the collapse than after, and that recent government expenditures haven't really grown it much beyond what it was at the peak of the housing boom.

I know a lot of people are worried about inflation, and one of the biggest arguments they make in support of that idea is that governments are going to have to print more money in order to support their stimulus packages. But a tremendous amount of money simply vanished in the collapse, and some portion of the "new" money is simply replacing it. At least, that's my intuition. I may be completely misreading the data.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How have I earned this reputation?

Kate: I can't believe you gave my daughter nun-chuks!

Me: She was swinging a wooden spoon around. I thought nerf chuks would be an improvement.

Kate: Oh, they're nerf? It's fine, then.

Me: You thought I gave a four year old real nun-chuks!?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

9/12

Hey, remember Glenn Beck's "9/12 Project", where a whole bunch of right wingers went to Washington to talk about how the federal government is the enemy of the people, and there are all these secret conspiracies among the left to destroy the country using ACORN, the census, healthcare, etc.? Yeah, good times.

While that was going on, a Census worker named Bill Sparkman was found hanged in rural Kentucky. With the word "Fed" scrawled across his chest.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Messed up idea of the day

The Republicans not only don't care if they win elections; they actually want to lose them. They are, after all, the party which believes that government is the problem, not the solution. When that is your core principle, actual governing is difficult, if not impossible. They're much more comfortable in the minority, where they can satisfy themselves by stopping the Democrats from governing.

The weekend that wasn't

I came down with a 102 fever in the middle of dinner friday night, and my temp didn't come down to normal until Sunday night about 7, so I spent as much of the weekend horizontal as was practically possible.

On the bright side, I watched some TEDtalks on the Tivo, and heard this great quote in the middle of a great talk:

"I'm an ignostic. I refuse to be drawn into the question of whether god exists until someone properly defines the terms." -John Lloyd

(The Rebecca Saxe talk on reading one another's minds is very good as well).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gettin' Old

Was at a school thing recently, and somebody brought cookies from Hot Box, this cookie place downtown that was started by a couple of recent college grads. Christie asked me if they were as good as mine, and I said, "No, but they're good."

In my head, I was thinking, "Please, I've been working on my chocolate chip cookie recipe since before those kids were born."

Tonight, I realized that's actually true. Damn.

Hopping Robot

Nifty.

Nice Obama Moment

Very human, very funny: Obama Calls Kanye a 'Jackass'.

One more. I can't begin to tell you how many ways this photo makes me smile.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cool tools

Remember The Milk keeps getting better. In fact, I'm thinking of getting a pro membership just for the iPhone app.

Speaking of iPhone apps, here are some things that help me get stuff done:

Evernote. I use it to remember articles I want to ready, clip recipes I like, flag videos I want to watch, things I want to blog about, stuff to post on Facebook, or really just about anything I want to remember. The text recognition is nice, but I wish there was a "save as text" option for handwritten notes and pictures.

Google Reader. Three things rock about Google Reader. 1. I subscribe to RSS feeds of my favorite NPR podcasts, so I can hear them whenever I want. 2. I can easily see which blog posts and news articles I've already read, and have things filtered so only new articles show up. 3. The search engine lets me search within the articles I've read, or flag articles for memory, so I can easily refresh my memory about that thing I read that one time by the guy about the place. You know the one.

ShopShop, a free shopping list for iPhones. You can do multiple lists, so I have three: to do, shopping, and packing lists. Easy peasy.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tin Man or Scarecrow?

I hope somebody reading this lives in the Kansas 2nd district, and can call Rep. Lynn Jenkins and ask her why she told one of her constituents, a 27 year old single mom who can't afford health insurance, but makes too much for Medicaid or SCHIP to "go be a grown-up" and buy herself some insurance.

To be fair to Jenkins, she clearly seems to think that doing everything she can to derail health reform is no contradiction to "we need to reform the system right now" and that her imaginary proposals will actually do something to help, instead of making things worse. Unfortunately for her, while that is fair, it stills shows that she's a moron. Or heartless. Hard to tell which.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Genius Idea of the Day

Basecamp should allow you to opt in to an expertise exchange, at which point an "I need help with this" button would appear next to your to-do items. If you clicked it, you could write up a brief summary of what you're trying to do, and it would send that message out to people with similar to-do items, so you could send out a request, "Has anybody been able to get captioning to work in Flash with Adobe CS4?" and it would automatically pop up for people who are working on similar projects.

Crucial information about healthcare

Okay, maybe not crucial, but funny.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Placebo and Alzheimer's patients

Boing Boing: Placebo effect is getting stronger

Apparently, Alzheimer's patients get less kick from pain meds because they aren't getting the placebo effect that everyone else does. In other words, when you take pain meds, you get the painkilling from the drug, and the painkilling from your brain. But Alzheimer's patients can't clearly envision the future, so they get no placebo boost.

Monday, August 24, 2009

xkcd reveals my secret tech support magic.

Timing things with Music

This post from Lifehacker reminds me that my first year out of college, I was crazy broke, but still had all my stuff from college. So I had a CD player, but no kitchen timer, and couldn't afford to buy one. So, inspired by Hudson Hawk, every time I'd cook something, I'd hunt down a song that was about the right length, or maybe a sequence of songs, and use that as a timer.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Words, words, words

Her: She [our daughter] is getting really good with her words. She doesn't sign as much, but she says "done" very clearly.

Me: Definitely. I was feeding her eggs while she sat on my lap yesterday, and she was really loving them. Giggling and laughing when I held out the fort, all that. Then she started turning her head away from the fork, so I asked her if she was all done, and she looked me right in the eye and said, "Done."

Her: Fantastic.

Me: And then she threw up all over me.
Cool clock

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Funny, sad, and funny

What happens if you tell you're girlfriend that you're going to Europe for two weeks, but she's not listening? This: While I was away.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Computer Wallpaper as a productivity tool

This is a cool idea: Getting Things Done with Workflows and Quadrants, but I never look at my wallpaper when I'm working, because I'm busy actually doing stuff. What I need is a single window that combines email, chat, my to-do list, and my calendar.

Actually, I have that. It's Gmail with various lab widgets in it. The only thing missing from it is my work email, because that's stuck in Lotus Notes. Sigh.

Dancing with the Stars Season 9

Look, I know I was going to be having to watch it anyway, but Mark Dacascos and Chuck Liddell will make it a bit more interesting for Theron and I both (I don't know if Dionne makes him watch it or not). This season's WTF contestant is Tom DeLay. Seriously, WTF? I bet he tries to kneecap somebody, the crooked son of a bitch.

Full list is here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Real American Hero? Sigh.

Christie thought it was funny/cute that I wanted to see GI Joe, but it didn't happen this weekend, I was really was okay with that. Life is short, and I'd rather spend that two hours playing with my kid. I figured I'd catch it on DVD. Now I'm reading various takes on it, and I'm starting to think that if it doesn't show up on Netflix streaming, I'm not going to bother.

Mike's Rules - Say you're sorry

There's an old Heinlein quip that, when arguing with your wife, if you find that you are wrong, apologize, and if you find that you're right, apologize. Take out the sexism, and it's still a good rule. It's particularly important to apologize when I least want to, because that's usually when I'm being a jerk. So here's the rule:
Apologize. It'll only hurt for a minute.

I suppose it's worth noting again that I've made these rules for myself because they're things I'm not good at.

There's a corollary to this rule:
Let the other guy go first; it's good for you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Imagine a brilliant title here

I had an absolutely brilliant idea for a blog post this morning. I can remember everything vividly: It was 3:22, and I was listening to my teething daughter cry herself awake for the 5th time that night. I was counting minutes on the clock, and staring at the baby monitor, wishing I could fall asleep and worried that if I did, I wouldn't hear Christie if she asked for help. To distract myself, I started thinking about some social problem or another, and while I don't believe I came up with any actual solutions, I did manage to come up with some very witty takedowns of the people I disagree with, and one or two highly original insights.

If only I could remember what I was thinking about. Because I remember it seeming really, really cool.

Data data drives out good

That's the data geek version of "bad money drives out good", and it very much applies to the sex offender registry. I wonder if there's any politician out there with the courage to suggest that we clean it up. Of course, that would open them up to charges of being "soft on child molesters", which is the sort of accusation that ought to lose the accuser credibility almost instantly, but that's not the kind of political system we have these days, is it?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Opposition for opposition's sake

That seems to be the only value of the Republican Party these days. If Obama comes out in favor of sunshine and apple pie, then they're against it. In some ways, I guess they're stuck living with their own rhetoric. After all, they spent the campaign painting him as The Destroyer of Everything Good, so they can't exactly come out and say, "Hey, yeah, that's a pretty good idea," even when he proposes things that are, in fact a good idea.

Which is how we end up with Republicans arguing that the AARP is part of a conspiracy to kill old people. They don't have any reasonable arguments available to them.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Impact of the healthcare system on my life

Since we're in the middle of a healthcare reform debate, I thought I'd share a little of how our current healthcare system has impacted my life, and why I'd like to see it fixed. It's not something I think about every day, but it has definitely shaped my life.

I had my first migraine when I was eleven. It wasn't a big surprise, since my mom always had them. At the time, treatment for migraines was basically done with narcotics and other brute force techniques, but the chemistry has been advancing steadily, as has our understanding of migraines and the brain. That's meant a lot of doctor appointments over the years, catching up with the latest meds and such.

Not a problem, as long as we had insurance, which we almost always did. I vaguely remember a stretch when my mom changed jobs, and she was without coverage for a while, at least for the migraines, which were defined as a pre-existing condition, and not covered for the first 3 months of her new policy. Not long after, they changed the law so that pre-existing conditions were covered as long as coverage remained continuous.

That's meant that I have made damn sure to have continuous coverage. When I was in college, my parents covered me. When I graduated, I got private insurance with a high deductible, and I never, ever let it lapse. That first year, I made about $7,000, and at least $1,400 of that must have gone to health insurance. When it came time to pay bills at the end of the month, electricity was optional, and food left plenty of room to economize (beans and rice, homemade bread), but the insurance bill always got paid and always got paid on time.

Once I worked my way up the ladder to the point where I had insurance, it wasn't such a hassle, but it's definitely affected my career choices. For instance, at one point I had been doing some freelance work, and was considering going full time as a freelancer/consultant. The fact that the most effective migraine drugs are $20 a pill without insurance pretty much shut that door for me.

In a world where people have lost their houses, had to choose between food and heart medicine, or declared bankruptcy because of medical issues and insurance problems, this is pretty weak sauce, really. I've just had to be careful. But there have been risks I haven't been able to take because doing so would have meant losing that continuous coverage that has allowed me to live relatively pain free. It's not a big impact, but it's there.

Tool want!

I have absolutely no need for a $300 stud finder, but, man, does this thing look cool.
Perfection, Inc. - a Boston Globe profile of Christopher Kimball

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Here's another take on the Pollan article, asking what, exactly, constitutes cooking?

Actually, I'm not that interested in that question, but it's a good excuse to tell a funny story about Christie's cousin, Eric. He was visiting us just before our wedding, when he was about 16. Christie and I walked into the kitchen, and there he was eating ice cream from the carton. Christie pointed out that there were bowls in the cabinet, right within arms reach, and he said, "Oh, no thanks. I don't really like to cook."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How To

Fabric Mail Box

Working with the world

This Michael O'Hare piece on engaging with the physical world is worth a read. It's a riff on a Michael Pollan article bemoaning that we spend more time watching cooking shows than we do cooking, but it goes beyond that to talk about fixing cars, working on the house, etc.

I'd take it even further and throwing making music into the mix as well. Assembling a bookshelf from Target is not "building furniture", and playing a CD is not "playing music", but I've heard people use those phrases. Microwaving a box is not making dinner, either, I suppose I should point out.

Now that the kid is eating real food, Christie and I (mostly Christie, some of you might be surprised to hear) have been cooking almost every night. We do it because we want her to be healthy, and to have a healthy relationship to food as she grows up, certainly, but some of it is that peculiar idealism that comes with being a parent. Sure, we believe it's better to cook than to eat out, that it's better to read than to watch TV, etc., but when it's just us, it's easy to get lazy and take shortcuts. Now that we have a kid, we're trying harder to walk our talk.

And it feels good to make meals somewhat from scratch (we're not exactly grinding our own flour), just as it feels good to build a piece of furniture, or make a quilt from scraps. For Christie and I both, part of the joy of doing those things is that it ties us into a tradition. We learned to cook from our mothers and grandmothers, and had parents and grandparents that were more likely to be out doing than inside watching.

But there's a tension as well. Watching Ask This Old House and reading Fine Homebuilding have definitely raised my comfort level in taking on projects in completely new areas. Watching America's Test Kitchen and The Minimalist podcasts have introduced me to new techniques and flavors that I never would have tried if they weren't showing up on my Tivo.

But I also have to throw a little love at the Tivo. I remember back in the day when a Saturday afternoon meant choosing between watching home improvement shows and doing home improvement projects. Now, I can save a cooking show, watch it while I cook, and pause it when I need to. I can work on the house all day on a Saturday, then watch Tom Silva fix a rotting threshold while I'm taking a lunch break. Having a DVR makes it a lot easier to use these shows as a reference, not just entertainment.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Medical experiments for the lot of you, I'm afraid

Once again, my deplorable habit of listening to right wing talk radio means I got to have a sighting of crazy in its natural habitat. In this case, it's the completely insane idea that the Obama healthcare plan is going to force euthanasia on the elderly.

If you're looking for evidence of the complete bankruptcy of the modern conservative political power structure, I don't think you could find a better example. And it's not just talk radio. Republicans are talking about it on the floor of the House, if not the Senate.

There are two things about this that bother me:

The first is that nobody seems to have said, "Wait, we're saying that the Democrats want to kill their grandparents?" That's over the line of credulity, not to mention decency.

The second is that this line of attack is, basically, "If we put the elderly on government healthcare, they're all going to die." Something about that seems flawed, but I can't quite put my finger on what.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Warranty on new Pepper Mill doesn't cover use



I got us a new peppermill and salt shaker for the kitchen table, and this weekend I used it for the first time. The first time I turned the grinder, Christie yelled, "Mike, you're voiding the warranty!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tax the tall.

Pass/Fail on Healthcare

I keep seeing these articles that describe the future of healthcare as binary. Either it passes, and Dems bask in success, or it fails, and Republicans milk that victory to gain some seats back.

But there's a third option that's quite possible: Republicans successfully stop healthcare reform yet again, and voters punish them for it. Our rep, for example, is a Republican who has, like the rest of them, done absolutely nothing for his constituents. If his only accomplishment after two years is having killed healthcare reform that we actually want and need, what's his sales pitch, exactly?

"Hi, I'm Blaine Luetkemeyer. Remember me? I promised to look out for your interests in Washington. I know you say you want the healthcare system fixed, but I'm so sure you didn't really mean it that I did everything I could to stop it. Please vote for me again, so I can continue collecting a salary for roadblocking people who are trying to get something accomplished!"

Where's the next Cronkite?

You know how slow I am to react to things. I like to pretend that it's because I'm incredibly thoughtful and contemplative, so please don't disillusion me if you see me IRL.

What struck me in listening to the coverage of Cronkite's career was that he was actually a pioneer when TV was brand new, and that he helped shape a brand new medium. And this morning my brain suddenly popped while reading yet another "death of traditional news" story. The people who are looking for a new Cronkite need to be looking online, probably at someone from a traditional format (Cronkite did print and radio before TV) who's helping to shape how online news is delivered.

My personal vote is for Josh Marshall, but it may be a mistake to even be looking for an individual.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Huh.

Teenage Romance

This Dorky Dad post on the dangers of dedicating a song to your teenage girlfriend is apt, but there is also a danger to being insufficiently romantic as a teenager. Witness this piece of dialogue from my own ancient history:

Her: Tell me you love me.

Me: I love you.

Her: Tell me again.

Me: I love you.

Her: Tell me you'll love me forever.

Me: [pause]

Her: Well?!

Me: _______, we're sixteen years old. What're the odds?

Trust me when I tell you things went downhill from there.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Proof that there is no racism anymore

Getting arrested for breaking in to your own home, the sort of thing that only used to happen to minorities, is now a privilege being offered to Harvard professors: Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrested at Cambridge home.

Oh, wait, right, Gates is black. Never mind.

BTW, the cops arrested him for “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior”, and his version of the story is here. The two versions aren't entirely incompatible. If the cop who came to investigate refused to give him name and badge number, I could imagine Gates yelling at him. He's a Harvard prof., after all, and that often comes with a fairly outsized ego.

Personally, I grew up knowing never to yell at cops, partly because they deserve our respect, but also because they carry guns and clubs and can totally fuck up your life if you piss them off. There are people out there, however, that can get away with yelling at cops, namely, the rich, the famous, and the connected. Gates is all three, so it's not surprising if he thought he could get away with treating a cop like a freshman caught sleeping in class.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Thrilla from Wasilla

In light of recent events, and to make things easier on all of us, I recommend changing the town's name to Wasidiot.

Fishing

My parents used to drag us up to Minnesota to this fishing camp outside Park Rapids, where I would be bored as hell for a week or two (except for their impressive stash of comic books). Right now, though, databases are frying my brain, and I could see the appeal of sitting in a boat on a lake, staring at the horizon and listening to the loons. I would not, however, bait the hook. Actually catching a fish would take all the fun out of it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

So glad I didn't see the new Transformers movie.
(spoiler alert, if you haven't seen it, or you could just read the article, then you won't want to)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

"Hi Dad"

If you read my tweet below, you might be wondering whether my one year old daughter really said "Hi Dad" just now when I went in to give her a midnight bottle. Well, that depends on what you mean by "said".

Those were the sounds that came out of her mouth, but I can't vouch for intentionality.

The "Dad" thing is pretty common at this point. I'm Da, Dada, very occasionally Daddy, and sometimes Dad. Also sometimes Dadadadada if she's really pissed.

And she routinely calls for us by name when she wakes up in the night. She'll start with whichever of us put her to bed, and if that gets no response, she'll try the other one.

But the "Hi" thing is unprecedented. If it was real, she'll say it again. Real or not, though, it was totally heart melting.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Back from DC

Next time we go to DC, I think we'll start planning it a little earlier. We knew this was coming for a long time, but we put all our mental energy into what to do with the baby, and not much thought into our actual trip. So, basically, we were winging it. The only fixed point in our trip was that Monday would be spent at a conference.

Sometimes that worked really well, sometimes not. Here's what didn't work well:

Walking. We are not so young anymore, and don't walk much in our ordinary lives. So we ended up sore and tired fairly quickly. At one point we looked at the map, saw the distance to the Metro, and decided that a taxi ride back to the hotel was totally worth ten bucks. If we had it to do over again, we would have hopped onto a monument bus tour first thing and used that to get our bearings and see the major monuments.

Not checking hours. Because of our schedule, Saturday and Sunday were our major days for sightseeing. But at least two of the things we really wanted to see were closed on Sunday. Which would have been nice to know on Saturday, when we went to the Smithsonian, which is open on Sunday. Doh!

Here's what did work:

Wandering around. We ended up right by the White House purely by luck, and went to the Remnick Gallery because we wanted somewhere cool to sit down. The Sam Maloof dining set in the upstairs gallery looked quite comfortable, but we opted for some cushy benches. Still, it was one of the highlights of the trip, and totally random. Wandering is rough on the feet, though.

Yelp.com. Specifically, their mobile apps, which let you see reviews of local restaurants, attractions, etc. Yelp led us to the Blue Duck Tavern, which we would have walked right by, and to El Chalan, which we never would have found. Both were fantastic meals.

The iPhone. Maps, maps, maps. And a camera. And restaurant reviews. And news. And email. And boredom killer. I'm not saying I wouldn't want to do a big city without the iPhone, but I certainly felt more comfortable having it. And it was great being able to watch video of the baby whenever I missed her, which was a lot.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Home Again

I didn't see much news while I was gone, but I imagine it was just all Iran, all the time, right? I mean, what could push that off the front page?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Milestones

They're not all sweetness and light. Our 4 year old niece, for example, has long had a wonderful imagination, but she's only just now begun to realize that she can apply that imagination to try and get things she wants. Yeah, she's been telling silly stories, and exaggerated for dramatic effect, and sometimes her answers to "so, what did you do this weekend?" stretch the limits of plausibility, but it's only in the last few weeks, that we've had to start checking up on her when she says, "My mom said it was okay."

Just this weekend, our little girl reached a similar milestone. I came into the bathroom just as Christie was enforcing the "no standing in the bathtub" rule. As soon as Chipmunk saw me, she said, "Dada?" in this questioning voice that, I swear, translated as, "Do I really have to do what the crazy lady says?"

The answer, of course, was "Yes, your mother is right." I'm thinking of getting it as a tattoo. Might save time.

And then there was last night. She woke up crying in the middle of the night, and after a suitable period of time, I came to get her and help her get back to sleep. I started to pick her up, then saw her pacifier on the floor. So I left her in her crib and bent down to get the pacifier. "Dadaaaaaa!" she screamed, with all the sense of betrayal she could possibly muster. She might as well have just ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it.

Clearly, she's coming along right on schedule.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

This morning was a big ol' brunch, then my ladies napped while I folded laundry and watched Mythbusters (which is really about my ideal Sunday afternoon, oddly enough), then it was off to the sprayground for some very, very wet fun. We were way too beat to cook, or to go out, so we ordered delivery from our favorite Mexican place, via Tiger's Takeout. i really can't say enough good things about them. I've got my pick of great restaurants, the service is prompt, and they keep you updated about the status of your order at every stage.

Now they just need an iPhone app.

As far as my thoughts on Father's Day, I'm too tired for anything particularly deep, but it was a little weird having my first Father's Day after being a dad for more than a year. I'm completely used to being a dad at this point, but the suddenly public nature of that relationship was a bit discomfiting. In spite of having a blog where I spill my every trivial thought, and my tendency to gush about my daughter to anyone who will listen, I am basically a fairly private person, and I've never been comfortable as the center of attention. The way I coped was to focus as much as possible on my little girl. She's the reason for the season, as the saying goes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

With all apologies to my gamer friends

Not sure how ethical it is to tell you about a comment that is subsequently removed by the author, but I just had my masculinity impugned by some troll that followed me home from a comment I'd left on a post at a feminist web site. Of course I am the all powerful admin, so I can see the blogs this guy follows and know his hometown, but I still can't tell if he was trying for ironic and missed, or trying for stupid and hit. Whichever it was, he obviously thought better of the comment, which I applaud.

But the site emails copies of any comment to me, so I did see it, and I saw his blog, which is entirely devoted to role playing games, and mostly seems to consists of bitching about the GMing. Two words, oh troll of mine: Glass houses.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Signs that you might be a furniture geek

1. You get excited when you hear that Thomas Moser is doing the keynote at a conference, and feel bummed that you can't make it.

2. You realize that the conference is being held near an Ikea, and wonder if you could gatecrash the keynote while your wife is shopping.

Note on #2: I said, furniture geek, not furniture snob, so no sniffing at Ikea. That being said, I would much rather own Moser furniture than Ikea furnture. I just can't afford it. So if you're independently wealthy, and wondering what to get me for Father's Day, here are just a few ideas. That rocking chair is a steal at $3,200.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran

I can't stop checking Andrew Sullivan's blog to see the latest news from Iran. It's got that "holy shit, we're watching history" sort of feel to it. What's grim about revolutions, of course, is that sometimes nothing happens except for a lot of young people dying. But sometimes they change the world. Here's hoping this is one of the latter, and not the former.

Been there, done that

When babies attack: Labor pain is just the start.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jeesh.

We're refinancing. Which means a sudden uptick in the junk mail from financial companies. And today I got my first cold call. It came this morning, while I was on the phone with my father in law talking about the tensile strength of concrete (it's a foundation thing). The voice mail said, "Hi, this is Paul from Redacted Mortgage Company and I need to speak with you. My direct number is 314.xxx.xxxx. Thank you." As far as I know, I've never done business with Redacted, but I figure I better be sure. Ten seconds into the conversation, it's clear this is a sales call.

I am inclined at this point to tell him never to call me again and go back to my life. I don't want to be a customer of a company that uses deceptive sales tactics, because if they'll bullshit me to get my business, what will they do once I'm a customer? But I'm trying to do my due diligence, so I tell good old Paul to call me back in a week once I have my appraisal, and we'll talk options. He makes a note and hangs up.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I'm at Target, shopping for the big birthday party, when my phone rings. It's a 314 area code, and a familiar-looking number. I'm pretty sure I know who it is, but we have guests coming from St. Louis tomorrow, so I answer it.

Him: Hi, this is Paul from Redacted Mortgage Company, am I speaking to Michael Terry?

Me: Yes, you are. What can I do for you, Paul?

Him: We notice that you recently submitted a mortgage application, and we're wondering if we might be able to help you do a little better in terms of the rate and terms?

Me: I actually talked to you this morning, and I'm going to have to ask you to put me on your do not call list, Paul. If this is the level of attention to detail you bring to your sales calls, there is no way in hell that I am going to enter into a financial relationship with you.

Him: You talked to us this morning? May I ask who you talked to?

Me: You.

Him: Me?

Me: You.

Him: Can you remind me what we talked about?

Me: You know, I think I'm just going to stick with "Put me on your do not call list."

Him: Okay, I guess we can do that.

I wonder if I'm going to hear from him next week.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Nice article from Salon: Dude, man up and start acting like a mom.

I've never been a stay at home dad, but I totally get the shift he goes through at the end. Sure, you can look at things like vacuuming or cleaning toilets as feminine work, but why? At most of the jobs I've held where cleaning toilets was part of the job description, the women generally foisted it off on my because it was, in their words, "gross." And cleaning is really just an extension of other anti-entropic activities, like tightening hinges, or fixing cracks.

And as far as diaper duty goes, what's more macho than haz-mat?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Product Review

I have no idea why the Philips RFX2001/27 IR to RF Home Control Blaster is so hard to find online, but we picked one up at Target this weekend, and I'm loving it. We put the electronics behind closed doors as part of our babyproofing, and also because it makes the house look a bit more grown up.

Unfortunately, you can't control the Tivo through closed doors, and our newly mobile daughter is attracted to all the pretty blinky lights when the door is open. I've looked at various set ups like this before, but they start at a ridiculously high price point. This was only $50, took five minutes to set up, and works great.

He gladly stopped for me

So if you know me, you know my way of working out a thorny emotional problem is to write about it. Here goes, but I warn you, my thoughts are a mess:

My uncle is dying. This has been going on for a long time, as has my not thinking about it. There was a diagnosis years ago, then chemo, then remission, then a spot of cancer here, then there, a handful of surgeries, more chemo, then a sudden decline just recently.

But all of this has been just background noise in my life, which has been completely taken up by a beautiful little girl, colic, toys, sleep schedules, immunizations, daycare colds, babyproofing, and all of that. Just to give an example, we went to KC over Memorial Day weekend, and had hoped to see friends while we were in town, but between the schedules, needs and desires of my parents, my brother's family, who was off the following Tuesday to South America, and the baby, there was no way. It came down to seeing friends or getting home in time to start the week with a slightly cleaner house.

Yesterday was the first time we've had a truly clean house in months, and it's already messy again. Seriously. I love my to-do lists because they mean that when I sit down at night to drink a beer and watch a little TV, I know exactly what it is I'm not doing. Because we are never, ever done. And I suspect I'll never really be done ever again. There is always laundry to do, bottles to wash, a deck to blow clean. There is always something.

How, then to carve out time to do something unpleasant? Even when he was healthy, he's a lot of work. I can't, for example, remember a spending over an hour with him when the N-word didn't come up. Like a lot of men, his good side is in his actions, not his words, and those take a lot longer to come to fruition. Everything bad there is to know about Jiggs, you'll know within a few hours of meeting him. The good takes a lifetime.

In truth, though, I would have found excuses not to go see him even if he was a saint, or a great comic, or otherwise a joy to be around, because I have made enough of these visits to last me a lifetime. I know it all by heart: the smell of iodine and disinfectant, the sallow skin and sunken features, the occasional k-chunk of the morphine pump during the inevitable lulls in conversation.

I don't know what the right thing to do is, except this: whatever my dad needs from me. He's losing his older brother, and it's my job to help him. Whatever that means.

Geekery

Me: You can either share the pachinko, or you can play with something else. But if you want to play with the pachinko, you have to share.

Niece: [Sigh.] I'll try.

Me: No. There is no try. Share, or play not.

More on sleeping arrangements

This was a seriously productive weekend in that we did a ton of cleaning, a bit of organizing, and finally got LG's room back into decent shape. And we finally baby-proofed it. Yeah, you heard right, the baby's room was not baby-proofed. Why should it be? She was never in it.

No more. Last night, she actually slept in her own room.

Hopefully, this will help with the biggest challenge of her sleeping in her own crib, which was that she tended not to be very firmly asleep until 11 o'clock or so, which made it hard for us to go to bed until at least then. That wasn't so bad at first, but a week of going to bed at 11:30 and waking up at 6:15 has left us both pretty exhausted.

Plus, she seems to have a sense for when we're in the room, and sleeps more lightly if she has an audience.

It went well last night, till an early morning thunderstorm woke her at 5.

We'll see how it goes.

Friday, June 05, 2009

How did I miss that it's National Doughnut Day today? Why is that not marked, in bold, on my calendar?

Man, I was totally going to put up a Doughnut Day Tree this year. Now where is the Doughnut Day Bunny going to leave my doughnuts?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Play with your blind spot. I've know about the blind spot since 6th grade science class or so, but this is still fun.

Homo Coquens?

Fascinating review in Slate of Richard Wrangham's Catching Fire, which proposes that the innovation of cooking was instrumental in human evolution. The reviewer, Christine Kenneally, has written a book on the origin of language, which is one of my favorite things to think about. I might have to hunt that one down.
Lard is good.

Family Bed Revisited

I've written before about trying to transition our Little Girl from family bed to crib. I don't think I ever did a follow up on that one, but I can sum it up in two words: not ready. Her or us? Well, that's an open question. But it didn't work.

I'm no expert on babies (but I am kind of an expert on this one), and I think it was her that wasn't ready. Last time we tried to transition her, it was because we felt pressure to do so, and she cried, literally, for hours. It worked once, but she'd only sleep in her crib for an hour or two. Then she got sick and wouldn't sleep in the crib at all.

This time, we were dealing with the aftermath of an out of town trip that left all of our sleep cycles screwed up. LG's naps were screwed up, and it was getting very, very hard to get her to sleep until 10 or 11 at night, using our usual ritual, which was to rock her to sleep, then lay her down. Considering that she had been going to sleep between 8 and 9, that was a huge problem for all of us.

So starting Sunday night, we've been laying her in the crib. She cries, but she generally stops when we leave the room, and she only cries for a few minutes before she falls asleep. The first night, she slept until 5:30, then came to sleep with us in our bed. The next, she woke up at 4, and Christie rocked her back to almost sleep, then put her back in the crib, where she slept until 6. This morning, she slept all the way until 7.

It does suck listening to her cry at night, but the fact that this is so much easier than last time makes me confident we're doing the right thing. And the simple fact is that there were tears and drama last week when we tried to rock her to sleep. She's just going through a phase right now where she doesn't want to go to sleep, and there's going to be drama. It's our job as parents to help her get to sleep in the least dramatic way, and I think we've found it.

It is a little hard to get used to how big the bed feels without her in it, though.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Quote of the Day

From Katie Couric's Princeton Commencement Speech:
"There may be some opportunities in the Republican Party. They're still looking for an effective spokesman, and the only person they can find so far is Rush Limbaugh....and he won't take the job because he doesn't want to give up his prescription plan."
msnbc.com: Kansas City is the place for cheap family fun

Monday, June 01, 2009

Pseudoscience and Oprah.
Autism and the new Star Trek. I very much identify with how Matt describes his feelings about Star Trek:
I love the idea of Star Trek ... but the show (TNG) consistently failed to hook me, and my interest would inevitably wane after an episode or two. And while I liked the movies, my enthusiasm failed to translate to the small screen or the written word.

The Tiller Murder

I'm sure you know by now that George Tiller was shot while at church on Sunday. Dr. Tiller ran one of the few clinics in the world that will perform abortions during the third trimester. I know a little about what went on behind closed doors there because a friend's late father was a pastoral counselor there, on call for those who needed or wanted religious counseling.

Right there, you see the problem with the anti-choice religious right's rhetoric on the topic. Dr. Tiller was a religious man, and he put his life at risk because he'd seen the heartbreak in families who needed these abortions. Dr. Tiller saved lives, and some moron killed him for it.

Now we see lots of backpedaling from the religious right, as they wonder out loud how anyone could have listened to them call Dr. Tiller out by name as a babykiller, and then gone out and shot him. As if he didn't get death threats on a weekly basis. As if he hadn't been shot before. As it there was no way of predicting that violent, extremist rhetoric could end in murder. As if it had never happened before.

How many murders by right wing extremists is this now? Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 4 shooting sprees this year, including one at a Unitarian Church. As always, Dave Neiwert is the guy to go to on right wing eliminationism.

If I thought the right wing was capable of learning... but no.

Friday, May 29, 2009

It is not fun to be blowing through an excellent trilogy at the rate of about 2 days per book, only to be brought up short by the news that book three doesn't come out for three more weeks.

Christie'll be glad to have me back, though.
Google Wave looks very cool. Google describes it as "What Email Would Look Like If It Were Invented Today", and they're publishing the standards as open source so anyone can develop apps for it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hellacious Marathon

My brother's getting ready to run a marathon, and he picked one in the Southwest for his first. He told me that he'd looked up the Columbia marathon, and that all the reviews said it was hellaciously hard. So I looked up the course map, and I have to wonder what kind of sadist would make someone run that?!

The course runs from downtown Columbia to the river bottoms and back up, which is an insane amount of vertical for a late summer run in Missouri humidity.
Family battles to keep limit on noise with shooting range nearby.

Appalling local story that's as much about how easy it is to buy a law in Jeff City as it it about anything.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

R.I.P. Sam Maloof.

I expect that, if you asked him what he did for a living, he'd say, "I make chairs." But he was an artist who redefined the look and feel of American furniture. At 93, this is clearly a well-deserved rest. Still, the world is a little bit poorer.

Good Title

I'm not saying I actually want to read Disguised as the Devil: How Lyme Disease Created Witches and Changed History, but it's got a title that made little firecrackers go off in my head, possibly because I'm currently reading (and really enjoying) The Patriot Witch.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Me (singing): All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel, the monkey thought it was all in fun, Pop! goes the weasel!

Her: What does that even mean? What is that song supposed to be about?

Me: Unexploded ordinance.

Her: What?

Me: Yeah. It's from a German post-war children's song, "Boomf Geht Der Weasel."

Her: Really?

Me: No.

Her: Because it does seem like something the Germans would sing about.

Memorial Day

This morning, I ate donuts and shopped, this afternoon I took a decadently long nap with the wife and kid. That doesn't seem like how one ought to spend a Memorial Day, but it's how most of the soldiers I've known would have preferred to spend the day, compared to say, tromping through mud/sand on the way to probably get shot at by someone else who would also rather be home with their family. I'd like to say that I did it all in a commemorative way, but I really didn't.

There are days, and this is one of them, when I feel almost absurdly lucky to have the life that I do. People often say that we're standing on the shoulders of giants, but that's not really the case. All the wonderful things that we have were given to us by mere mortals who came before us who were in turn building on the things given to them by the human beings who came before them.

It's easy to feel like things are going to hell when you watch the news and see the horrible things we do to one another. But when you look back just a few hundred years, it's undeniable that we are freer, healthier, and better off now than then. And I'm not just talking about the developed world, although it's more visible here. There are certainly pockets of hell on Earth, but over all, we've clearly progressed as a race.

So, life is good.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

For Billie

Bald Presidents

Aptitude

Like all Missouri students, I had to take a bunch of aptitude tests when I graduated from high school. It was a decent ego boost, as I tested extremely well in every single area except one: clerical, which consisted of looking at columns of numbers and marking which ones were the same and which ones were different. I tested at about the 5th percentile on that one.

"Fine," I thought, "That's not a skill I'm ever going to want or need anyway."

Guess what I'm spending my day doing?

Again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The most horrible noises just came through the baby monitor and I wondered, as I ran to the bedroom, if there's such a thing as sudden-onset whooping cough.

No.

But there is such a thing as the cat coughing up a hairball on the bed next to the monitor.
As near as I can figure, the new ad put out by Blue Cross Blue Shield attacking the idea of a public health insurance option goes something like this:

1. Single payer health insurance will be a complete nightmare that no sane person would want, and we must do everything in our power to prevent anything that might ever lead to it.

2. If health care reform includes a public option among its various choices, it will be so good that everyone will choose it over private, for-profit plans, and

3. All the insurance companies will go out of business, leaving us stuck with the horrible public option which we all chose because it was so good.

I think I must be missing something.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Charles Bolden: Possible NASA Head

Charles Bolden: The man who could lead NASA

I'll have to see what Rob and Mary think of him.

Want, but can't have

The Taga stroller, tricycle combo is terribly cool, terribly expensive, and not available in the US.

Sore

I mowed the lawn and cleaned the gutters yesterday, both of which were desperately needed. We have this one door in the basement that's hard to close after a rain, unless I keep a particular gutter on the uphill side of the house cleaned out so that water doesn't press against the foundation. And I swear it was easier to open after I cleaned out the gutter, although that actually makes no sense, as it didn't rain.

Doing the entire lawn in one sweep it nothing if not a reminder of how hilly our yard is. I literally hurt from head to toe. I have sore muscles on the soles of my feet.

Clearly, I am very out of shape.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I meant to tell you that Taunton Press (the people behind The Not So Big House and Fine Homebuilding plus lots of other awesome stuff) are having a warehouse sale on their books, but then I saw this book and got distracted. Everytime I see that cover, I hear this voice in my head, saying, "Ayup, that's wood, alright!"

Not dead, just sleepy

The Girl's cutting three teeth at once, which means she's not sleeping well. And when's she's not sleeping, nobody's sleeping. The other night, she went to bed at 11 and woke up at 5:30. So between that, work, and family in from out of town, I'm not finding a lot of spare cycles to bitch about the government, or to do anything worth bragging about, and those two things make up 90% of my blog postings.

Hence the quiet.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Plot thoughts

If I were scripting the Drew Peterson saga, his arrest wouldn't be the big dramatic moment. The BDM would come when he's convicted, at which point his fourth wife would come out of hiding. It would then be revealed that she faked her own death after he told her that he'd killed his previous wife and gotten away with it, and threatened to do the same to her. So she went into hiding leaving just enough evidence to get the cops interested.

Unfortunately, life very rarely works like that.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The future of TV

John Rogers' post on future revenue streams of TV is interesting, and reminds me of a discussion I had with Christie's Mom over Christmas when we were talking about DVD players.

It wasn't a particularly long conversation, but I was trying to explain why I didn't much care about Blu-Ray, while I was excited about the new upconverting DVD player she got me for Christmas.

I almost hated to tell her that it wasn't about the picture quality; it was that the new player had an HDMI output, which freed up a port on the back of the TV. I was arguing that blu-ray was doomed because no one cared about picture quality.

According to me (and of course you know I think I'm right), DVD beat VHS because you didn't have to rewind it before you took it back to the store, and you could jump straight to your favorite scene. CDs beat tape because they lasted longer and, again, there was no rewinding.

In my not-even-remotely-humble opinion, convenience trumps quality every time, and I said that I thought Blu-Ray was doomed because it was expensive, but mostly because digital delivery was only a few years away.

Now, with the new Tivo, I have seamless digital delivery, and I've got to say I would much rather have that than fantastic picture quality. Although the picture quality on Netflix streaming is surprisingly good.
Well, I've discovered that I can, in fact, make it to the new Menards across town and back on my lunch hour. I have also discovered that I probably shouldn't. They have teak! And it's only $30 a board!

Looks like I'll be rebuilding the garden swing out of cedar, not teak. Sigh.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Bragging

Christie spent all day yesterday doing solo baby care so I could get the lawn in shape, which had been nagging at the back of my mind for weeks. And then she demanded that we go out for Mexican food afterwards. After the baby went to bed, she suggested that we watch the Dollhouse episode we Tivoed Friday night, then spent 30 minutes or so discussing the various plot points, including possible plot holes and speculation about what new surprises Joss might have waiting for us. (BTW, we both think that having Agent Ballard say, "My whole life is fake!" so incredulously was probably a hint.)

As if that weren't enough, it was her idea to hand the kid off to Kate yesterday so we could catch a matinee of Wolverine, and we spent over an hour afterward discussing his backstory. I'm going to be honest here: I know more about Wolverine and the X-men than I do about databases, woodworking, shamanism, cryptozoology, the history of the English language, ancient Greek history, comparative religion, or my own family. And I pretty much never get to talk about it. So that was a very good hour.

Yep, I have the most awesome wife ever. You remember that episode of Dollhouse where Topher made a doll of himself, but stuck in the body of a hot babe, so he could have somebody to play video games and hang out with? (I am well aware that you probably don't.) That's pretty much what it's like being married to Christie, only less creepy and solipsistic.

Mother's Day

I'm thinking of getting Christie's Mom Day present from Woot.com. They've got two venues, so today I've got a choice between roses and a USB Nerf missile launcher. That's a tough call. I'm afraid by the time I make up my mind, it'll be too late.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Driving the non-crazies out of the GOP

I've been joking for a while that the Republican's are so attached to ideological purity and opposition to the Dems that they've systematically alienated everyone who is not a lunatic. That would, after all, explain why a recent poll found that self-identified Republicans are at the lowest level since 1983.

But I thought there had to be a moderating factor at work somewhere, a recognition on some level that they were hemorrhaging people, and that it was going to hurt them badly. Apparently I was wrong, as Arlen Specter has switched parties, giving the Dems a filibuster-proof majority once Franken is seated.

via Joey deVilla.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Paul Krugman takes the words right out of my mouth:
"So Bobby Jindal makes fun of “volcano monitoring”, and soon afterwards Mt. Redoubt erupts. Susan Collins makes sure that funds for pandemic protection are stripped from the stimulus bill, and the swine quickly attack.

"What else did the right oppose recently? I just want enough information to take cover."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Club for Growth Interfering in Local Races

I'm glad to see the Missouri Club for Growth admitting that they financed certain school board candidates in order to further their agenda. That agenda, nationally and locally, has been to oppose any and every tax increase with every weapon at their disposal, and to demand loyalty oaths from members of Congress in which they promise to vote against tax increases.

Now that their interference has been exposed, I hope Michelle Pruitt has the courage to disown their support. School boards should be about education. It was bad enough when the religious right started going after them, now the Club for Growth? Just what we need.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Falling down

When The Girl falls, she either hurts herself, in which case there are immediate tears, or she doesn't, and there's a brief pause in which she usually looks at me blankly to see how I'm going to react.

I've found that if I act concerned, she may cry and need comforting, but if I smile and say something like, "Nice fall!" and maybe even clap a little bit, she gets right back up and keeps playing.

Tivo HD

Our Tivo died last week. It was more than five years old, which is an eternity for a computer, or a home entertainment device, and the Tivo is both. So I wasn't exactly heartbroken. Plus, I've had my eye on the new Tivo HD, so it was kind of a blessing. We got a deal on a refurbished one, and it's been great so far. It's great, for instance, that it picks up both cable and antenna, so I can finally record content off the PBS back channels, where all the how-to stuff is.

But Netflix is the real killer app on this. Their "Watch Instantly" title list isn't everything, but there are a ton of old movies on there, and the new releases that show up there are the sorts of movies I might want to see, but don't want to spend $3 on at the rental place (i.e. anything with Nick Cage). I've even found myself using it to watch movies I already own simply because it's easier than going upstairs to find the DVD. For first run movies, we can rent those from Amazon and download them straight to the Tivo.

Between Netflix and the Tivo, we're getting all the functionality of high-end digital cable, but at about half the price. The only thing we're missing is the music channels, but neither Christie or I are really music people. If we were, Rhapsody is available for Tivo, too. It costs money, but it would still be cheaper than digital cable.

I think we're getting closer to "roll your own" cable, but I'm not sure it's going to come from the cable companies.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Exactly.

My first night soloing with the baby

Warning: Slightly gross biological details to follow.

Christie's out of town for about 40 hours, so I'm single dadding it right now. That requires a little preplanning to get some things done that can't be done with a baby hanging on your leg, like taking out the trash, but it's nothing I can't handle, even if I am still getting over a cold.

I'll admit, I was hoping for an easy night, so I could brag to Christie about how well things went, and things started out pretty well. The baby went to bed easily at eight, and only woke up a couple of times between then and nine, both times looking for her pacifier.

About nine, I got hit with my first bout of, um, intestinal distress. No biggie. I can handle this. I wonder if I ate something that didn't set well? Well, I have basically eaten nothing but Cap'n Crunch while sit, so that makes sense. Like I said, I'm still getting over a cold, so I decided to go to bed early, about 9:30.

At 11:30, I woke up with one eye all crusty and itchy. Unfortunately, I couldn't really examine it closely, because the power had just gone out. I found a flashlight and called the power company. The baby woke up somewhere in there, too, so I got to soothe her back to sleep. With that accomplished, I set out to see what was up with my eye.

Wow, I guess that's why they call it pink eye, huh? I have drops, but they're for the kid, not me. Better wait till morning, when I can talk to a doctor. Meanwhile, my fever's back up over 101, and the snot factory in my head has kicked into overdrive. I start having fantasies about blood poisoning and blindness, which motivates me to go ahead and use the eyedrops, which stops the itching in my eye enough that I can sleep. A little, anyway.

At 4:30, the alarm I set for Christie's early morning flight yesterday goes off, at top volume (the power came back on about 1 a.m., and the outage did something to the volume on the clock radio). The baby starts crying, of course, so I turn off the alarm, then soothe her back to sleep. I can't turn the volume down without turning the radio on, but I'll worry about that at 6:15.

6:15, the alarm starts screaming, and so does the baby. I turn down the volume and try to soothe the baby, but she's not having any, until I feed her and rock her to sleep. I can't get excited about going horizontal with my sinuses in their current state, so I nap sitting up in the rocking chair with the baby in my arms until about seven.

Not the worst night I've had (not by a long shot), but not what I'd call an easy one, either. But I've got a doctor's appointment this morning, and Christie's back tonight. I will admit I'll be glad to have backup again.

Update: The doc gave me approval to use our leftover eyedrops, plus a prescription for antibiotics. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Torture thoughts

There's been a lot of grief given the Obama administration about the declaration that people who did the actual torturing would not be prosecuted. I just don't feel like I have any room to kibbitz here. The people we put on the front lines have a choice: obey any lawful order, or face prosecution.

If I were a young soldier or operative, and was ordered to torture someone in order to gain intelligence, I like to think I'd refuse, claiming the order was unlawful. But what if I'm then shown memos from top administration officials claiming that it was in fact legal, what are my options, especially when those same officials have claimed the right to imprison and torture anyone, including U.S. citizens, who they deem "enemies".

I'm not at all sure what I'd do. I think anyone who says they do know what they'd do is full of it.
This video of Seth Godin complaining about why and how modern life is broken made me laugh out loud at several points, but this sign was the high point.

YouTube - baby preacher



Reminds me of more than one preacher I've heard.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unemployment

Cool interactive map of vanishing employment across the country from Slate. I find it interesting that Boone County turned red (increasing unemployment) in the middle of 2007, and never went blue again, though it did sometimes hold steady.

It's like watching a disease spread across the country, and looking at the map, it's clear things started long before it made headlines.

Monday, April 20, 2009

No blogging today if I have any sense, as I have a (at last measure) 102.3 degree temperature and am busy cooking my brains.

Of course, if I had any sense, I would have taken anti-inflammatories well before my fever got into brain-cooking territory, so nothing is certain.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Craaaaaazy

You know I like to listen to talk radio from time to time. What can I say? It amuses me. So I was glad to have a meeting across town this morning, because it meant being in my car during the Glen Beck show, which I've long heard was its own unique brand of high-octane crazy.

Oh. My. God.

I can only imagine the poor intern who's in charge of wringing out the spittle-soaked mic during commercial breaks. His rants are long flights of fancy, completely ungrounded by argument, reason, or fact. He does voices. He's the Tracey Ullman of right-wing talk radio. It really is impressive, but in the end, there's no there there.

The best example I can think of, though, isn't precisely from the show. It's the ads. On most of the talk radio shows, they advertise gold brokers, and their value proposition is that, when the markets tank, you'll be glad to have invested in gold as a bulwark against bankruptcy.

On the Glenn Beck show, they advertise seed banks of non-hybridized seeds that you can use to start your own "crisis garden", and their value proposition is that they make excellent barter material when civilization collapses. Seriously.

My absolute favorite thing on the seed bank's web site is the Boule d’Or Melon, which they say "contain significant amount of natural lithium".

I could see how that would come in handy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Memories

A quick search of my archives tells me that I have apparently never blogged my favorite Easter memory. I don't see how it's possible, but here goes:

I must have been about eight. Therefore, my memories are a bit vague on this, and so I might slip up on a few details. And then there is another postmodern element that I will be adding toward the end that muddies the water a bit further, but that's getting ahead of myself. But in the interests of telling a better story, I'll scrub all uncertainty from the following tale:

It was Easter, 1979, and I was eight. The Easter tradition in our family was, of course, to go to church, but not until the late service. My older brother and I were not allowed to eat any candy before church, but our Easter baskets had already been hidden by the time we woke up. Therefore, we spent our Easter mornings hunting them down while our parents gradually brought themselves to full consciousness.

I'm sure you've noticed that the Easter Bunny was nowhere present in that explanation. Well, if you remember my Santa story, you'll probably have guessed that I didn't buy any of that crap about giant freaking rabbits hiding candy for little kids. Have I mentioned that there are rabbits living under Christie and I's deck? She's named them Peter and Harriet, but I call them both Hassenpfeffer. Nope, no Easter Bunny for me.

On this particular Easter, my brother and I scoured the house, basement to attic. Literally. I even shone a flashlight up and down the laundry chute, thinking my dad might have suspended them in it. No luck.

Finally, Mark and I appeared before my father, who sat unshaven and enrobed at the head of the kitchen table, to admit defeat. For the first time in our lives, we needed a clue.

My father's steely gaze moved over us both, and he took a sip of coffee, as if pondering how best to steer us in the right direct. "Have either of you," he asked, "ever read the Edgar Allen Poe story, The Purloined Letter?"

"Oh!" my brother yelled, and took off.

"What?" I yelled and tried to keep up.

"Hidden in plain sight!"

We found them in the dining room, which I had personally searched at least twice. I clearly remembered lifting the table cloth to look under the table. The bread baskets that my mother used during every formal meal sat in the middle of the dining room table, which my brother and I had set the day before in preparation for today's Easter dinner.

Both baskets were brimming over with candy.


Addendum: It is 1992, and I have brought a girlfriend home from college. The talk turns to family traditions, and I tell the tale of the Year My Father Hid the Easter Baskets in Plain Sight. It is, I have always believed, a wonderful story, the moral of which is that my parents are awesome. At some point in the telling, my mother begins to laugh.

"What?" I ask.

"I remember that Easter," she says. "I woke up when I heard you kids running through the house, and said, 'Oh, shit, Keith, I forgot to hide the Easter baskets last night!' 'Don't worry about it,' he said. 'I've got an idea.' And he waited until after you'd searched the dining room for the third time, and snuck them in there while you guys were in the living room."

Addendum Part Two: It is 1995, and I have brought a fiance home from college. I tell the story of the Easter My Father Conned His Poor Innocent Sons Into Thinking He Was a Genius, the moral of which is that my parents are hilarious.

My mother looks at me with an innocent, aggrieved look, and says, "What are you talking about? That never happened."
Also looks cool, but I'll believe it when I see it: TechCrunch's CrunchPad: Your Own Tablet PC for $200
Looks cool: The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It
For a variety of reasons, today would be a really good day for me to go to the gym over lunch. It's the first time in weeks when that's the case. Plus, my shoulders and back have been aching, and I know a good workout followed by a bit of stretching would really help. Yup, I've got every reason to go to the gym over lunch.

But it's rainy and icky out, and I don't really feel like it.

So no gym.

Confession Time

When we bought the house four years ago, Christie had one condition. The paneling had to come down. Which we did, and it was good. But we moved back in before I got the trim rehung, and we've somehow lived the last four years without ever getting around to rehanging it.

It's embarrassing, frankly, but one of my great weaknesses is getting a project 90% to done, and then leaving it that way.

All day Saturday, as my dad and I were finally getting it done, I kept thinking of a post by John Rogers where he bragged about having this poster (of The Done Manifesto) in the writer's room of his show.

It's not fancy molding. In fact, all but a couple of pieces are the original trim, salvaged from its four year hidey hole under my workbench in the basement. So it's pretty plain. A few of the joints are downright ugly (but a few are beautiful) and there are spots where unstained door casings and floor show through because of the difference caused by the removal of the fugly paneling.

But it's done, and done is beautiful, particularly after four years of not done.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Voting is cool

Admittedly, it was only a school board election, but I feel much better for having filled in those little ovals. If you live in Missouri, it's Election Day, so go out and elect somebody!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Yeah, I'm a hobbit.

Since Christie and I are getting ready to take a little trip with the kid, I thought I'd see what some other folks do to handle the challenges of traveling with children. I decided to start by watching a video over at MightyGirl called "Traveling with Children." Every single person started their little bit with, "My husband and I love traveling."

And that's where you lost me.

I do enjoy having traveled, which is not the same thing at all. I enjoy having firsthand knowledge of distant places, of knowing how to say thank you in 8 languages, having had pizza in Chicago, fish and chips in England, sushi in Japan, Italian in New York. I like sounding cosmopolitan and being able to compare the subway systems of New York, London, Tokyo, and Washington, DC. I've whitewater rafted in Colorado, walked naked in the desert, gotten drunk in upstate New York, rock climbed in Arkansas, attended a biker wedding, broken temple rules in Kyoto, and got lost in Oxford (which is not actually very difficult).

But, really, there's a lot to be said for my backyard. Like Bilbo Baggins said, "It's a dangerous business, stepping out your front door. You never know where you'll be swept off to."
Must. Make. Lemon Squares. Soon.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Iowa Strikes a Blow for Religious Freedom

By giving pro-gay marriage churches legal recognition.

I realize that the decision was actually about the rights of couples to marry, not the rights of churches to marry them, but this is a side effect, and the whole "society not discriminating against gays is an affront to my religious freedom" thing is the thing about the anti-gay marriage movement that annoys me the most.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Everybody else is quoting the inimitable John Rogers, so I will, too:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Frustrated with AT&T Wireless

I'm extremely frustrated with AT&T Wireless right now. I've been a customer for something like 7 years now, and I've always had pretty good service, particularly in the AT&T stores (as opposed to the franchise stores). But my phone service took a big quality drop recently. Maybe they upgraded their network or something, but as of a couple of months ago, Christie gets 4 bars in the basement with her 3G phone, and I get 1 bar with my non-3G one.

So I went to the AT&T store, but they weren't any help at all in diagnosing my problem, except to recommend a new phone. They were particularly enthused about selling me an iPhone. They did give me a new SIM card, with a sort of half-shrug, saying "sometimes that works".

It didn't.

Today, Christie and I decided to stop by a different AT&T store, which was probably a mistake, as I wasn't feeling particularly good physically, nor was I at my best emotionally. They tried to sell me an iPhone, and I told them I wasn't interested in a smartphone of any kind. They asked why, and I told them that I spent 95% of my time within three steps of a computer, and that turning that into 100% just wasn't worth $30 a month to me. He kept trying to sell me an iPhone.

I finally persuaded him that I just wanted a baseline phone to make calls with, and that reception was the biggest thing for me. He sort of waved his hand at a bank of phones and said, "They're all basically the same. It might solve your problem with reception, might not. Every phone's different."

Huh, so they're the same, and they're different? If only there were someone around who could guide me to the phone with the best reception in and around Columbia!

I might have been getting a little cranky at this point. Since I'd spent a fair amound of time on the website, and had seen a number of phones with "$0 with upgrade credit!" next to them, I asked him what the prices on these were like with my upgrade credit.

"Oh, these are the upgrade prices."

Either there were free/cheap phones that he didn't want to show me, or AT&T is really trying to drive traffic to their web site. There is a third possibility, I suppose, which is that the prices on the web site are dependent on a contract, and the upgrade prices in the store are not, or something along those lines. Again, if only there were some person involved in the transaction who could have given me some guidance!

So, according to the good people at the AT&T store, about two months ago, my service quality underwent a rapid decline, but the reason for this is a total mystery to everyone, and the only way I can keep the level of service that I've been paying for (paying more for, actually, since they got rid of their lower level plans and 'upgraded' us to the next one up) is to spend $80 to $100 in the hopes that things might magically get better.

The best explanation I can think of for this is that AT&T pays their people commissions on new customers, and commissions on iPhones, but there is no commission for keeping a customer who might have gone elsewhere.

Anybody know how the reception is for T-Mobile in Columbia?