there weren't enough to do already, Yes, I spent the day listening to the Fiscal Stability Commission, and what a swell surprise it was. More on that later.
As I was saying, as if I didn't have enough to do already. In advance of the Great Wagon Train West, we're having the wall repainted and the floors resurfaced. And since having furniture against the walls (and yes, on the floor) makes it hard on the workmen, I've now got to pack the house up. It's weird packing up without moving, and it's going to be weirder living in a packed-up house for a couple of weeks without unpacking.
In the meantime, I've now also got the Wagon Train to plan. We'll stick to interstates, since I'm reasonably sure that the truck will make it through all the underpasses, and for speed. Normally I like to dawdle on these sorts of trips, take the side roads, see the World's Largest Iguana intestine, keep and eye out for Muffler Me, that sort of thing. But we've only got three, maybe three-and-a-half days, and we need to get over what pass for mountains back east.
Still, this will be the fourth time I've moved a household to/from the east coast from/to Denver, and I like to take different routes. So we'll probably swing down through Memphis, then cut back up take US-50 across Kansas and eastern Colorado. Who knows, maybe one night we'll sleep in a wigwam or something.
To boot, Shamash tells me that I don't have much to look forward to in the way of kosher restaurants, either.
In the meantime, I still have pictures from the last time to post, sound files from today to edit, and oh yes, boxes to pack before I sleep. Plus the County party website to upgrade, and maybe a little blogging about our impending budgetary instability, and maybe about PERA's, ah, interesting financial report.
My house is about 100 yards from the local tornado siren. It's gone off three times in the last half-hour, and it's totally inaudible from most of the house (except perhaps to the dogs. More than that, no funnel clouds.
Now, I say this with some mild disappointment, but mostly with frustration. I'm happy the windows block out so much sound, but you'd think that a tornado siren on a busy street would come through better than a typical car horn.
More than that, if you really want people to head for their basements with their pets, government-mandated water bottles, hand-cranked radios, and all that ammunition they've been hoarding, then <I>don't blow false alarms</I>.
Kind of disappointing, actually. I went - as I always go - for the space science aspect, but found that the earth science displays were much more up-to-date and engaging. (They weren't all about global warming, but it was certainly a presence, and since one of the pay-for-displays was about the subject, I can't help thinking there's an agenda there to brainwash kids into thinking that earth science is more interesting than space. Pity, that.)
Aside from the human evolution room, most of the standing exhibits looked as though they hadn't been changed since my dad was in school. Dioramas and large displays of Indian gods.
We didn't see any of the movies or planetarium shows, but we did see a couple of riveting photo exhibitions, one from the Apollo missions and one from the latest trip to Saturn's rings and moons. Jazzy stuff, all of it.
But the centerpiece was...flat. The big Debt Star Persisphere and Helicline totally fail to inspire. There's a movie inside the perisphere (no, it's not really called that) about the Big Bang, with Maya Angelou phonetically working her way through the script, and then...the Helicline, which is supposed to tell you about the history of the universe. But there are too few pictures, too little of anything, really, to hold your interest.
Along the balcony railing is a sense-of-scale exhibit about objects from 10-18 meters to 1024> meters, but again, there's no real connection between the panels, and no context. You look at each panel and think, "so what?"
The Smithsonian had a movie, Powers of 10, which I must have sat through at least 102 times growing up. It's brilliant, and even now, thirty years later, it's still 10 times better than what I saw yesterday.
Of course, pictures:
Here's the Helicline. See? It's just...bare. Shiny and metallic doesn't mean, "interesting."
Even here, the planets may be to scale, but they're not placed to scale from the sun. That might mean putting Pluto out on the Upper East Side, but they could have done better than Matisse Meets NASA.
This was interesting. Don't park under a meteorite.
Among the central European countries to have regained their freedom after 1989, the Czechs have enjoyed the greatest run of success. Starting with the Velvet Revolution, that managed a peaceful transition of power, the country has consistently made wise choices. (Look, throwing Ceacescu and his wife up against the wall and machine-gunning them was one of the great moments in human liberty, but best viewed from a distance.)
But more than that, they've made common sense and moral choices, not easy when you're in an EU dominated by Germany and France.
They elected Vaclav Havel, one of the few poets with enough common sense and political smarts to guide the transition to democracy, and establish apparently enduring institutions.
They're one of only two European countries (along with the Poles) not resigned to living under Iranian nuclear blackmail, having signed onto hosting pieces of an anti-missile system.
Their current president, Vaclav Klaus, has penned a book defending economic liberty against the new religion of environmentalism
The current foreign minister has supported both for Israel's preliminary air attacks and its current ground offensive, no small matter as the Czechs current hold the EU's rotating presidency.
While other Europeans indulge their latent anti-Semitism, the Czechs, "enjoy the luxury of telling the truth."
Whence this island of common sense in the middle of Europe? I don't know enough Czech history to say for certain, but it would appear that whatever it is manifested itself early on, in the decision to try for a peaceful Soviet exit and de-Communification.
Yesterday, we were all stunned by the news that Jim Cannon had passed away.
Jim was one of the RMA's founding members, a true patriot, and fine friend. He had been in a rehab center for some time, but the last time I spoke with Guy, he expected him to be home for Christmas.
I'll remember Jim for two things. His own courage in the face of a lingering, malicious disease, and how he used his blog for the troops.
Whenever I had a chance to visit Jim, which wasn't often enough, he was always upbeat and cheerful, regardless of how he may of been feeling on the inside. That's hard, to make your hospital visitors feel better.
Jim was also always on board with any initiative for the troops, particularly his Letters from Home project. Through his ever-changing URLs or email addresses, that was a constant.
Blogs often go dark, but not like this. Go by and leave a comment on Thinking Right.
That's pretty much the subject of conversation. It got to -15 yesterday, or -8, or -23, depending on your source and where the thermometer was. The dog found himself stuck between nature calling and nature ambushing. The water pipes needed attention, but held. Any critters looking to the garage for sanctuary would have been severely disappointed.
But it's a dry cold, of course.
People say they can't remember it being this cold before. Someone here at work from Poland claims she's never been this cold.
Eight years ago, we got a nice snow one night in January or February. The next morning was crystal clear, the sky as blue as I've ever see it. It was so cold that the snow hadn't melted off any of the trees by about 9:00 AM. The pictures are here. That was cold, but I don't think it was as cold as it's been here yesterday and today.
My temperature-preference graph is decidedly non-linear. If "comfortable" is about 70, I'd prefer 60 degrees to 80 degrees all the time. I'd even prefer 50 to 90 most of the time. I'll generally take cold over hot, even wet cold over muggy, swim-to-work hot. But this is ridiculous. It's like a reverse-Phoenix, with people scurrying from heated edifice to heated edifice in their heated cars.
It's cold enough that it wouldn't surprise me if Al Gore had changed planes out at DIA, or flown into Centennial over the weekend.
In the meantime, enjoy this headline from the WSJ, breaking news from 3 billion years ago, as James Taranto would put it:
Put this down under Things Learned While Walking. While walking this evening (er, last night), I met a major supporter of Rocky Mountain Honor Flight, a foundation that takes surviving WWII veterans on a weekend trip to DC, to take in the new WWII memorial, the FDR memorial, meet with former Sen. Bob Dole, and generally see the sights. These guys came home to a job market and a housing market that had adjusted to their absence, and had yet to readjust to their reappearance.
Our war memorials pretty much got built in reverse order, with Vietnam and Korea coming before WWII. (I know it was the first war with an integrated military, but I wish the Army didn't feel it necessary to point out the race of the soldiers depicted therein.) With only one surviving WWI veteran, it's unlikely that we'll ever see one to those troops, although DC does sport a memorial to its own WWI vets and a memorial to the AEF, with a statue of Pershing and some pretty neat color maps of his effect on the Western Front.
Rocky Mountain Honor Flight is part of the national Honor Flight organization, so if you're not in Colorado, consider helping to underwrite a flight, or starting a local chapter in your state, if it doesn't have one already.
Yesterday was the unofficial end to Summer, the last of the three tent poles, as Lileks calls them. So I took the dog up to Mt. Evans in an attempt to hike to the Chicago Lakes. (As opposed to the Chicago Lackeys, who got Obama his first political job.)
The map said there was a gravel road leading from 103 to the reservoir, and then a level trail leading to the Lakes. Except that I kept driving back and forth along 103, and the only roads I saw were a private road and another one that was blocked off. So against my better judgment, I parked at Echo Lake, and started down the side of the mountain to the reservoir.
Nice hike, though I was measuring each step down, knowing it'd be a step back up later. The dog was thrilled to get to some drinking water, and then more thrilled to go swimming. He's a lab, and he's an exceptionally strong swimmer even for the breed. Although I'll never understand why he shakes himself off while still standing in the water.
I got some beautiful pictures of the mountains and the valley, and a couple of the Front Range against the reservoir. Shame nobody will ever see them, that they'll remain forever locked in digital limbo, encoded on a flash memory chip.
Because as I got almost to the top of the trail, I slipped, and then, felt something else slip. Ominously, there was no camera strap on my shoulder. I grabbed, and looked over just in time to helplessly watch the camera bounce down the hillside. I liked that camera. It wasn't anything special, but it was easy to use, had all the basic features, the flash and auto-zoom worked well, and it took lenses. And, oh yes, it had a 10x optical zoom.
In the Broadway show, The Scarlet Pimpernel, the hero, Percy, inspires his crew the Bounders with a song celebrating the importance of their mission, and the joy they should take in pursuing it. It's all about the danger they face, and the courage they'll need to face it.
By contrast, the villain, Chauvelin sings about his mission. But instead of taking joy in his work, it's a grim business, he knows it. It's about survival of the fittest, which he intends to be. And it's about bitterness and pitilessness, and he compares himself to a "Falcon in the Dive."
Percy's song is in a major key. Chauvelin sings in a minor key. And that's all you need to know about the two characters.
You take on a challenge, and you need to be Percy. You need to attack the problem with joy and pleasure and not give in to your darker impulses. You need to keep it in a major key.
UPDATE: It has been suggested that I have slighted approximately half the musical key wheel with this post.
Look, I'm Jewish. Minor key is the soundtrack of my life. Almost every Jewish tune worth singing is in a minor key. A minor key can add solemnity, urgency, sadness, maybe some humility, sir knight. A little bitter to go with the sweet. There's a whole range of serious emotions available to the minor that the major just can't approach.
But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between bittersweet and bitter is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.
I was informed only last night of a showing, this night, of a new movie from Paramount, Defiance, based on Jewish partisans fighting in the forests of Europe in WWII. Apparently, the film is currently only slated for release in the NY/NJ area. However, this evening, at the Westminster Theaters off of the Boulder Turnpike, there will be a screening of the film to gauge interest.
You can see the trailer here: www.defiancetrailer.com.
I haven't seen the movie, so I can only speculate about the direction it takes, but hey, that's what bloggers do, right?
The fact is, this sort of thing is both important, and difficult to pull off. Some of the conflicts within the group would seem to be obvious - those who don't want to fight, for instance -, and it's hard work to keep those storylines from being predictable.
At the same time, we today are used to the notion that Jewish blood isn't cheap, in large part thanks to Israel's success and survival. There was a time when that wasn't so, and a film that honors without sentimentalizing those who worked to change that literally dreadful state of affairs can serve a real purpose.
Email Gene Levy (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information and for a pass.
This day, in 1883. No doubt it made the delivery of "The World's Breakfast" much easier. It was also this bridge, as much as anything else, that made the 1898 absorption of Brooklyn into New York City both possible and inevitable.
Where are all the tall buildings? Not built yet. Chicago wouldn't invent the skyscraper for another 2 years, making the bridge construction all the more remarkable.
Got home last night to a new lawnmower still waiting to be used. Between the afternoon showers and the Campaign Coffees with Captains, it's been a lonely week for new hardware.
The Amazonians did deliver three offerings while I was at work, however. In The Gravest Extreme, by Massad Ayoub, and reputed to be one of the best primers about tactical and situational awareness in personal defense. The Denver Post may find it paradoxical that people carrying weapons aren't out there hunting big game on the mean streets of LoDo, but for most of us, it makes perfect sense not to want to shoot somebody. And no, not just because of all the paperwork.
Then there was the kochtopfe. A 10-piece cast aluminum with triple inner and outer non-stick layering. Of course, the "10-piece" business includes the tops, which it like saying that I have a three-piece car because the key and the gas cap aren't physically connected. And for some reason, the knobs on the tops were attached to the underside, and needed to be unscrewed and re-attached to the other side. They probably take up less room that way, but it's still the first cookware set I've gotten with some assembly required.
I gotta say, it's sturdy, heavier than cheap stuff and lighter than iron or copper, and the non-stick outside promises easier cleaning.
So we're finally moving the office. No, not putting it up on wheels and moving it across the parking lot. Given what happened to the roof a few weeks ago, the permit process itself would probably have to undergo Polar Bear review before that happened.
No, the whole happy lot of us is moving upstairs to a different conference room. I've working in offices (with and without office-mates), cubicles (with and without unendurably loud neighbors), at home, in coffee shops, and in quarters so temporary they'd make an army tent look like the Pentagon. But this is by far the weirdest set-up I've endured: 6 (now 5, soon to be 9) people in one conference room without walls, cubicles, or any semblence of privacy or climate control. Add to that the tendency to use the speaker phone when you're the only one on the call, and the room's transformation into an over-sized Easy Bake oven around 11:00 AM, and it wins the Environment Least Conducive to Productive Work running away.
Now we're getting ready to move upstairs into a larger conference room. There will be more space, and the opposite wall won't make you feel as though you're re-enacting the trash compactor scene from Star Wars. Since there are no windows, the room will be cooler, which will irritate some but which I find refreshing. We will have a clock, which, being that we're all contractors, we will occasionaly watch.
The hardest part wasn't the move itself, but the negotiations yesterday over the interior design. It was like the Paris Peace talks. We were literally talking about the shape of the table. Or at least, their arrangement. We all more or less wanted the same thing - a big horseshoe with a table for the projector in the middle, and then we spent 10 minutes moving them this way and, until they were just right.
There was a time when this sort of thing would have bothered me - just put them someplace and live with it! But now, I sort of accept it as the overhead of making everyone happy and feeling as though they've had a say. So I tend to stand there without much to say, which probably makes me look uninvolved. Oh, well. That's part of the overhead, too.
This came right after the Rosen interview yesterday. It's not often you get an hour to run free on the Blowtorch, with a chance to plug everything from the campaign to the blog, to the other radio show.
And then last night, the Colorado Union of Taxpayers spent about an hour on a briefing from legislative staff about the uses and misuses of Referendum C money. As with the Flatiron Building, what it looks like depends on where you stand, but it's pretty clear that the Legislature (and not just Democrats, unfortunately) has been playing pretty severe games in the expectation that they won't get caught.
So frankly, High Society last night was a much-needed tonic.
Today, Congress takes up a bill to prevent the use of genetic testing by businesses and insurance companies in hiring and insuring decisions. I can understand why fellow free-market conservatives would oppose such a bill, but in the end, I believe it's a wise move.
Some conservatives argue that the decision to use such information is a private matter, and to a large degree, they're right. Private insurance is private, and after all, why shouldn't employers and insurers have access to the best information available concerning the likely trajectory of their prospective employees' careers and health?
But the implications, given the world that we live in, of mandatory genetic testing - and make no mistake, it would soon become mandatory - for hiring and insurance are too troubling.
1) Basic fairness
As one caller to Bill Bennett's show put it this morning, I can choose whether or not I smoke, but I can't choose my parents. As conservatives, we believe in effort and measuring outputs. The widespread use of genetic testing measures inputs, and creates the possibility of another victim class, something we surely don't need. It also gives HR people another irrelevant piece of data to screen by, which appears to be the thing they're best at.
2) The Black Swan effect.
In his tremendous book, The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb notes the tendency of people to overrate the risks they can define, and to underrate the risks that are more diffuse. For example, when asked whether they'd rather pay for life insurance against their plane going down in a terrorist attack, or pay the same amount for insurance against the plane going down for any reason, people routinely pick the first more often than the second. This choice is clearly irrational, but it's how the mind works.
The same caller noted that you can have all the tests you want for cancer, but still can't account for someone getting hit by a truck. "Well, there's no test for that," barked the host, apparently not comprehending that that was the point.
What may work in large numbers for actuaries is unlikely to matter much in a hiring decision between two candidates, and focusing on information that we have, without understanding that it's swamped by all the information we don't have, may lead to worse, rather than better decisions. It's in many ways analagous to Modern Portfolio Theory, which makes all sorts of nonsensical assumptions about price movements, in order to reach beautiful and dangerously misleading mathematics.
3) Refusal to enter clinical trials for fear the information will end up in the hands of insurers;
Some will argue that insurers, aware that better drugs are to their benefit, will not misuse such information. But of course, better druges aren't necessarily to the companies' benefit. Whatever the actuarial results, competition will tend to force premiums down over time, regardless of conditions.
More importantly, there's Bastiat's Seen-and-Unseen. The insurance companies can, for the benefit of their boards and shareholders, point to concrete benefits from specific individuals they've denied coverage or increased premiums for. The benefits to them from better treatments are diffuse and distant.
Of course, one might also argue that this danger would lead the drug companies to guard genetic testing results like classified information, which might be comforting if the government didn't leak like a sieve.
MORE THOUGHTS: In theory, government would be well out of all of these arenas. It wouldn't regulate insurance as heavily as it does. It wouldn't distort the health insurance industry the way it does. It certainly wouldn't go around telling private individuals whom they could and couldn't hire.
And there's always the risk of frivolous class-action lawsuits lawyer-driven shakedowns, possibly on the basis of the very statistical anomalies the law is trying to read out of the system. For instance, it might happen that a plant shuts down in a part of the country where a certain gene, by virture of early settlement by a particular ethnic group, is prevalent. "Disparate Impact" might well be brought spuriously into play in such a case. I have to admit, I haven't studied the legislation closely enough to know what the legal standards will be for bringing suit.
Still, I think these things make it close, rather than tipping the scales the other way.
At the city animal shelter in Rogers, Ark., big, black dogs almost always make up the bulk of the animals put to sleep each month. Last month, 13 of the 14 dogs killed by the city were large and black - mostly Labs, shepherd mixes, pit bull mixes and Rottweillers, said Rhonda Dibasilio, manager of the city Animal Services Department.
Labs. Labs? Labs!?
What in the hell is the matter with these people? Don't worry, Sage. Dad still loves you, as long as he can pay the mortgage.
I've always loved the Impressionists, so when I had a chance to go to the Inspiring Impressionism exhibit touring over at the Denver Art Museum. The show's fascinating, but more educating than inspiring itself.
This was my first time in the new wing, and I can't say it was a transformative experience. There is a diorama in the coffee-shop area, showing the arts district, and the new building stands out, looking like an alien spaceship, maybe an early Borg model. Once you're in the exhibit space, you're looking at paintings on walls one way or the other. The fact that the exterior walls militate against rights angles in somewhat annoying, but the artwork is still hanging on the flat part.
What was laughable was the weird, banal "public art" display of cycling digits. Each digit represents someone with something to do with this building, and the digits rotate at a speed represented by some number they chose. God forbid they have something at trite as actual, you know, portraits.
The exhibit itself was, as I said, more educational than inspiring. Its central conceit is smart: pair the impressionist paintings with other, older masters of a style that may have been the inspiration for the new guys. Thus, the title of the exhibit. The subject matter ranges from fruit to cleaning women to romantic rendezvous and family portraits.
It is indeed educational to see how the impressionists re-interpreted the original subject matter in their own styles. But so few works are actually striking, that the display comes across as a lecture in art history. That's a pity, as the examples are drawn from museums all over the country. I would have thought that such a broad draft would have yielded more first-round picks.
If you like that sort of thing, it's...that sort of thing. But if you're expecting to see a collection of the greats, you'll have to wait for another show.
Noted briefly: the new iPod touch will have WiFi and browser. It also means that streaming internet audio and video can now compete on a more-than-equal basis with TV and radio, except in rural areas. This is a huge deal. Combine it with localization of ads, and it means that someone like a Salem network could eventually dispense with radio stations altogether. The shows could be broadcast from - well, wherever - and the ad server could get either local or national content to the listeners in real time.
Old Man Summer is finally beginning to see a little weakening here. The humidity has been sealing in the heat until later, but it takes more and more effort for the sun to warm things up in the morning, and it has less and less time to do so. Yeah, the highs are still in the 90s, but they come later and later, and then drop off 30 degrees before sunrise. The whole curve has shifted to later in the day.
In the meantime, I've finally discovered a diner I can go to before work. It's called the 20th Street Cafe, and it look across 20th Street at the part of downtown that's been rebuilt. Which means it's on the side that hasn't. Still, it's quiet, friendly, they don't care if all I have is coffee. Sitting at a table in a restaurant and guzzling coffee while reading the blogs or working is a pleasure exceeded only by doing the same on that restaurant's patio. And there's a place in Aurora called "Dozens," which has a patio.
Meanwhile, at about 8:25, the police apparently decided to do away with a volatile substance by blowing it up. In a school parking lot about 100 yards from where I live. The ka-THUM is unmistakable for any other sound, and I went to the back door to see if I could see anything. Although, in retrospect, if I had been able to see anything, outside would probably have been the last place I wanted to be, since I would have seen the sun rising in the west.
In the meantime, the lawnmower repair shop called to say that the mower was fixed. Ahhh, just in time. Well, yes, really. It's actually nice to sit outside and type this stuff into the evening, and I'm planning on keeping it that way this time.
In the meantime, it's impossible to believe that Elul is a week old, and that Rosh Hashanah is only three weeks away. Some years I've really looked forward to them, other years I faintly dread them. These are intense holidays, devoted to introspection and self-examination, much of it unfavorable, fed by the onrushing fall. This year, given the variety of changes, it's likely to be even more intense.
Ah well, it's late, and tomorrow is a day full of debugging, tiling, and studying.
Am I the only one who's noticed the sign on the Astros' right-field wall: "H-E-B: Driving Prices Lower"?
Anyway, it's August, which means that Monsoon Season has arrived here in Colorado. Some afternoons, it's even possible to swim from work to the bus stop. It also means it's the perfect weather to start energy-intensive indoor home-improvement projects, like installing new kitchen flooring.
The first step in any project is, naturally, to buy stuff. So last night it was off to Lowe's to pick up the first set of tiles, some adhesive, and some assorted tools. As usual, the dog came along as company and entertainment for the other shoppers.
And the checkout ladies. Who spent so much time admiring How Big The Dog Is(TM), that they completely forgot to ring up about half the order. Don't look at me like that. What am I, a thief? Of course I took it back in and got it scanned. But it does suggest that 1) these women were somewhat less than fully-invested in the company's success, and b) the company paid way too much for those expensive exit-scanner that are supposed to sound like a nuclear attack at CTU when you walk out with an extra pack of gum.
This is the second time this has happened - the first being at Home Depot a few weeks ago, under similar circumstances. At least at Home Depot, they thanked me for my honesty rather than scowling at me for implicitly impugning their work. If I wanted, I could probably do the project for half the price by bringing the dog along and putting items on the bottom of the cart. But that would be wrong, that's for sure.
So Jonah Goldberg, as though he had nothing better to write about, decided to start the Dogs vs. Cats debate up again. Bill Bennett points out that while cats may be smarter, they're not, "on our side, like dogs are on our side."
If Dr. Wayne is right, wolves and people were togetherat the point when homo sapiens had just barely evolved from homo erectus...This means that when wolves and people first started keeping company there were on a lot more equal footing than dogs and people are today. Basically, two different species with complementary skills teamed up together, something that had never happened before and has really never happened since.
Fossil records show that whenever a species becomes domesticated its brain gets smaller. The horse's brain shrak by 16%; the pig's brain shrank by as much as 34%; and the dog's brain shrank 10-30%...Now archaeologists have discovered that 10,000 years ago, just at the point when humans began to give their dogs formal burials, the human brain brgan to shrink, too. It shrank by 10%, just like the dog's brain. And what's interesting is what part of the human brain shrank....in humans it was the midbrain, which handles emotions and sensory data, and the olfactory bulbs, which handle smell, that got smaller, while the corpus collosum and the forebrain stayed pretty much the same...humans took over the planning and organizing tasks,and dogs took over the sensory tasks.
So you think engineering isn't a craft, it's just a science, building on ever-accumulating knowledge that people can just look up? Guess again.
This is the second History Channel special on Alaska I've sat through today. The first featured a segment on the AlCan highway, built in 1942, during WWII. At first, the engineers simply cut through the forest. This exposed the permafrost to the sun, which promptly melted it, turning the road into mud. They solved the problem by putting down a mat of gravel and composite to shield the permafrost.
The second discussed the first attempt to build a road from Fairbanks to the North Slope, in 1969. At first, the engineers simply cut through the forest. This exposed the permafrost to the sun, which promptly melted it, turning the road into mud.
There's a reason governments like post-WWI Germany and Saddam's Iraq pay big bucks to keep their inactive weapons research teams together, even when they can't build the weapons. And there's a reason we'd be morons to accept Iran's unofficial suggestion that we let them get just to the brink of building a bomb.
Finally. Drought, dogs, and distraction turned what had been a gorgeous patch of green into a wilderness, inhabited by weeds big and nasty enough to peek in through open windows and demand after-dinner table scraps. Or the dog gets it.
So, in comes the Surge. Time to raze (or DIngo) the thing to the ground and start over.
For some reason, I decided to leaf through Herodotus last night. For those of you who suspect that there really is nothing new under the sun, I've got more evidence for you.
At one point, he has a Greek advisor to Xerxes explain that God is jealous of us, because death provides an out from our suffering. This idea formed the basis of a science fiction story by Asimov, where after death, those deemed smart enough are given an afterlife, and set to work on the project of finding a way for God to die.
Earlier, he relates a story of how Gorgo, the future wife of Leonidas, as a child, advised her father to leave the room in order not to be corrupted by the escalating amounts offered by a would-be briber. Of course, in Lincoln's version, he threw the guy out, claiming that, "Every man has his price, and you were getting awfully close to mine."
AIn't nothin' changed in America. We can almost get jobs we want. We can almost live whereever we went. We can pretty much get an education. But let me tell you, if they could, they'd put us right back into slavery, and we better wake up to that. Ain't nothin' changed in America.
Now this was from a black woman working as a clerk at the Post Office, to another black woman who was a customer.
Sounds as though she needs Black History Month more than most white people I know.
Happy New Year! I suppose I could catch up on all the missed holidays, but at some point, you just write off lost time and get back to the cycle.
Back from an extended blogging vacation, relaxed, refreshed, and having missed tremendous amounts of major news, such as Iran's adoption of the Nazi salute and the goose-step. It's not as though you actually run out of things to say, but it's easy to see why blogging and talk radio are such a natural fit. Both of them consume tremendous amounts of material, and you'd better not repeat yourself too often, else you may as well just post links back to prior posts.
One of the interrupting events of mid-December was a long, quick drive back east to Long Island - driving a 26-foot truck. Now I like driving, especially long distances. Here to NY - ok. From the house to Wal-Mart - not so much. But I basically had two days to get the truck to Long Island, so I-80 it was. I'll say this for the Interstates, they have speed, which is just as well, since the things are routed away from anything you might want to stop and see, anyway.
In this case, it was also a chance to kluge together some interesting technology. DC-AC converters have come down dramatically in price, and I traded in my Comcast cable modem for a Sprint wireless card (although I still have my old wifi card for when I'm in a town lacking a digital signal but possessed of a wifi-enhanced coffee shop). Iowa may have wifi-enabled all of their rest stops, but that was just a redundant system as far as I was concerned. (That may be a red flag for all those governments putting money into muni-wifi. Or it may be an excuse to turn it into another stagnant public utility.)
So after having driven from Peru, IL to the exit for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, I am reminded that half the so-called highways on Long Island don't take truck because they were built when the largest thing on the road was a drafthorse. I know Robert Moses tried his best, but there's not enough air in any tire to get a 12' truck under a 10' 6" clearance. This was at 1:00 in the morning, having driven 800 miles already, needing to have the truck at the door by 9:00 the next morning, and low on gas, and having drunk enough diet Coke that my back teeth were floating. Having crossed The Broncks, heading for the gloriously named Throgs Neck Bridge, no neighborhood was safe to empty and refuel in, and the refreshing early-morning traffic jam made changing lanes an adventure in itself.
Ah, the magic of technology. With only the guidance of a warning sign somewhere in one of the 45 highway-to-higway interchanges in the Bronx, saying, "Trucks - Expressways Yes! Parkways No! It's The Law!," I pulled up Mapquest on the laptop in the seat next to me, and had a full-screen GPS helping me find the Yellow Brick Expressway. This would have been completely impossible even three years ago.
Talk about making lemons from lemonade. I was at home the other day, receiving a new bookcase, and turned on the Retro channel (sorry, Jared) to see Man of La Mancha was on. There are only three conditions under which actors should be allowed to sing their own parts:
1. They can actually sing
2. Marnie Nixon isn't available
3. The film will be shown only at Galludet
The problem with Man of La Mancha is that it's already a little sappy and the "message" is a little trite by now. Sure, we all know about the power and limitations of believing in spite of everything. Maybe this seemed like really inspiring stuff during the Johnson administration, but 40 years and 4 revivals on you're looking for comfortable memories and singable songs, not "message."
Rex Harrison could get away with it because he knew enough to talk through his songs as Henry Higgins. He sings maybe three notes the entire musical. Other than that, he's either shouting ("Let a Woman in Your Life!") or musing ("I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face"), but the one thing he's emphatically not doing is singing. So you want Richard Kiley (who was in two of those revivals), not Peter O'Toole. (Ironically, Rex Harrison was supposed to create the role, but backed out and Kiley took over for him. Would O'Toole's efforts have looked better or worse by comparison?)
The non-singing-singing only works twice. Once when Sofia Loren is spitting "Aldonza" at poor Don Quixote, and again when the roughs are taunting her with "Little Bird." And even "Little Bird" sounds like the writers were aiming for "When You're a Jet" but didn't quite have the wings. Of course we're supposed to laugh a little when Quixote is made invulnerable by the Golden Spittoon of Mambrino. A little, though, not a lot. Richard Kiley's booming baritone makes you think, "Well, just maybe it'll protect him a little." All the soft focus in the world can't help Poor Li'l Peter look like anything but a sap.
The good news is that maybe the original cast album will be available as an MP3 now. After having relived the same mistake they made with DVDs, DAT, video tape, 8-track (ok, maybe not 8-track), audio tape, TV, radio, the phonograph and probably paper and the clay tablet, too, the recording industry has figured out that MP3s won't just go away if you ignore them long enough.
Snow. Cold. When they gang up on you, the roads turn into skating rinks. For the first time, I had to use the 4WD just tooling around town. Of course, the Jeep is rear-wheel drive normally, not front-wheel as I'm used to, but even 4WD doesn't help your braking all that much. It just means that you slide straight. The snow's still coming down even now, but tomorrow's supposed to be sunny, so perhaps there will be photo-ops anew.
So having finished the NASD licensing steeplechase, and not yet having renewed the Quest for the CFA, I've got a little time on my hands in the evenings, and I've decided that at least one of the adult ed classes at the shul must be for me. Last night I tried out the beginning Talmud class - the nth beginning Talmud class I've tried - and it went pretty well.
We're learning Tractate Makkot, and it deals in part with the penalties for perjury in civil cases. The basic rule is that if you lie under oath as a witness, and if that lie would have cost someone money, you owe that person damages equal to what you tried to cost them. So if you falsely claim that someone stole $1000, and that lie is uncovered and the claim denied, you owe the accused $1000, since that's what you tried to do him out of.
Apply this to a loan. You claim that Bob borrowed $1000 for 30 days and now needs to pay it back. Bob claims the loan was for 10 years. What would your lie have cost him? Not $1000, since everyone agrees that he needs to pay that back anyway.
In fact, you'd owe Bob what he would have been willing to pay to have the money for 10 years, minus what he'd be willing to pay to have it for 30 days. I'm not sure how they would have calculated this back in 200 CE, but nowadays, you'd just apply the short-term and long-term interest rates to determine the value of having the money on hand. (There are halachic issues with charging interest, but set those aside for the moment.) In short, the raabis understood, at least at some level, the notion of opportunity cost and the time value of money.
Pretty neat, huh?
Less neat is this week-old piece from the Denver Post about minority enrollment at CU. Since this is a report about a report (a Boorstinian pseudo-event of the first order), objections to the diagnosis and prescriptions are anticipated and dismissed:
The study accused flagship universities of blaming their low diversity on inadequate state funding and the K-12 system.
Instead, they should direct more financial aid to low-income students, recruit minority students more aggressively and focus on helping minority students succeed in college, the report said.
Unasked by the reporter or by the CU administration: of the Colorado high school graduates who qualify as "minorities" under their definition, how many can actually read at 12-grade levels, and why is it CU's job to remediate this problem?
It's almost Thanksgiving, and the lights are coming out for the month. Office buildings and government buildings have started with the displays, and it does actually add some cheer to the month. The Denver City and County Building has the gaudiest display in town. Although they don't have a sound and light show.
Even the sunset cooperated. There were high clouds, but not the wispy cirrus kind. Serious stratus-types. The wind had pushed them out away from the mountains, clearing the way for the sunset, and sculpting them into the wildest shapes, the kind of thing you'd see in a 1960s version of Mars. So with the setting sun, you got the edges of the clouds highlighted in the descending rainbow: white to yellow to orange to pink to purple. With the city lights starting to poke through the dusk, the whole show was worth twice the price of admission.
I remain convinced that our holiday schedule is badly out of whack. New Year's comes barely a week after the solstice, which isn't accidental, but still leaves about 8-10 weeks of cold, dark, and wet before the wildflowers start to peek through. The lights have been taken down, and the whole months of January and February have the air of a hangover. Some of the smaller towns have winter festivals of various kinds, but these are highly localized, tightly contained by the surrounding mountains.
If you're Jewish, you get the relief of Tu B'Shevat and Purim (with a hangover of its own), and unless you're in Israel or certain sections of New York, it's not like it spills out into the streets, or has weeks' worth of buildup of its own. Chinese New Year comes in January as well, but outside of New York and San Francisco it barely registers, and even there, for most people who aren't Chinese it just signifies a one-day interruption in the sale of cheap electronics.
There are holidays in January and February: Washington's Birthday, MLK Day, Valentine's Day, Lee-Jackson Day, but they're all either too private or too earnest, first-rank people, but second-rank holidays trying a little too hard.
And then Hosting Matters went down. Seems as though I was sharing space with another blogger, and the server just wasn't big enough for the two of us. After HM relocated him to another server - no doubt violating myriad sections of the Geneva Convention in the process - things picked back up.
Election Day was, in most senses, very pleasant, although I wouldn't say it ended well. I started out by waiting in line an hour to vote. Some people weren't so lucky. Others weren't so persistent. And it was the remainder that put the unknown Cary Kennedy into the Colorado Treasurer's office over the eminently qualified Mark Hillman. I didn't actually get to use the new and improved electronic voting machines, each personally programmed by Karl Rove, but maybe next time.
(Last night on Backbone Radio, we interviewed Jim Spencer, who compared Mayor Hickenlooper's abdication of responsibility to what he imagined Mayor Daley Pere would have done. In fact, Mayor Daley Pere would have had the ballots filled out and counted beforehand.)
Fortunately, there was a Standing-in-Line Center right near DU, where I was to lecture Prof. Christina Foust's class on politics and communications. Students don't get to see real live conservatives in their natural habitat very often, and I don't get a chance to speak uninterrupted very often, so that part was a win-win.
In fact, the class was pretty typical of college classes. Some of the students were more engaged than others, with a few carrying the question-burden for the rest. Most listened attentively for most of the time, and a few were off planning that evening's entertainment. On the whole, though, I thought it was a fair discussion. The students were intelligent but not treacherous, and the class was certainly not the ambush that one hears so much about on college campuses. While I tried to bring it back to blogging & its role in the conservative movement, the students seemed more interested in discussing politics and some economics, so we stayed there most of the time.
I have to admit, I fumbled one question rather badly. One girl asked why we should care if Western Europe went Muslim. I responded, truthfully enough, that while we were good at building airplanes and world financial centers, they seemed good at crashing airplanes into such centers, and that the two were not morally equivalent. There was, of course, a better answer.
I should have asked her if she, as a woman, wanted to go to graduate school in France, only to find that the pre-landing announcement included instructions for donning the burka before deplaning at the Ayatollah Khomeini International Airport in Paris, that her student experience would include a relatively constant low-level fear of gang rape, punctuated by brief, but high, moments of such tension, and whether or not the murder of her classmate by her brother, for the crime of dating that cute Christian fellow across the aisle, would constitue sufficient reason for not wanting France to lose its intifada.
She probably would have just blinked at me. Clearly some students - like the Air Force ROTC cadet in the front row - understand what we're up against. For some others, it just requires too much imagination.
After that, a whirlwind trip to Charlotte and Dallas for a company visit. I can't talk much about the company visit just yet. I will, however, put in a plug for Gleiberman's, Charlotte's answer to the East Side Kosher Deli. Very good food, very pleasant service (although at a slightly Southern pace), and Malta. No, Malta.
And then last week, the server went down and recovered.
For those of you who thought maybe I was in my tent sulking after Black & Blue Tuesday, no such luck. I'll have an update at some point, but it involves, lecturing, voting, travelling, eating, and a few other -ings.
Did something unusual for me Saturday night - went to a party. I'm one of these people who dreads parties, and usually ends up having a good time, much to my surprise. One of the guys at the shul is turning 40 - poor sap - and his wife threw him a party with the whole minyan. Instead of welcoming him to the club, I felt like telling him, "you go on ahead, I'll catch up." In the event, it was fun seeing people in a setting other than lunch or kiddush.
So naturally, going to bed early, I also got up early - like around 4:00. This has been happening with some regularity, and I can't say I'm exactly thrilled. But I used the opportunity to take the dog down to Castlewood Canyon State Park for a more adventurous early morning walk. This was ill-fated from the get-go. The park doesn't open until 8:00, but the "Park Closed - Save Yourselves - Turn Back Now" sign doesn't indicate that, it just blocks the way. I probably could have found a place to hang out with a cup of coffee to kill the time, had I known. As it was, we both had to settle for the regular dog park.
So I came back home, removed a tree branch from a phone line, and rode the bike for 40 minutes. After 20 lbs., I've hit the Dreaded Plateau. You just have to keep reminding yourself that it's ok, that weight loss is pretty much an arithmetic problem - if you're expending more calories than you're taking in, you will lose weight. I'm sure in a week or two, I'll break out again, and drop what seems like 5 lbs. in a week. Of course, if I were a Democrat, I'll either be calling for a starvation diet or to just drop the whole enterprise altogether. Fortunately, I'll be listening to my inner Rumsfeld.
There was the Cowboys-Redskins game. For 59 minutes, I truly understood what it was like to be a Redskins fan in the 60s. The team missed everything - passes, blocks, tackles. They actually covered a punt at the goal-line so well that the Skins cover guy had time to turn around at the 1-yard-line and catch the punt. It skittered between his legs into the end zone. They should have added an arrow through the head of the logo at midfield.
With 30 seconds left and the score tied 19-19, the Skins kicker, who was lucky to keep the ball in the stadium, missed a 49-yard field goal. The Cowboys drove down the field to give Vanderjagt a 35-yarder of his own with 6 seconds. I stand up and walk to the TV, ready to bury the team & the season, and to leave the house. Well, Vanderjagt must have been liquored up, because the Skins block the kick, take it down to the Dallas 45, get a 15-yard face mask call, and kick a 47-yarder of their own to win the game.
Bill Parcells must hate Joe Gibbs.
So, out to the cafe to work until the show. Except that neither Panera nor the adjacent Peaberry can get their Internet connections to work. I do what I can offline, and finally turn myself in here at the station.
Someone left the following comment on the Blogcritics.org version of my One Night With The King review: "The Christian Bible is the same as the Hebrew Bible except that the Christian Bible includes the New Testament." Right. And the United States is the same thing as North America except for Mexico and Canada.
This afternoon, a company we're covering had an earnings conference call, and I need to write an update. I will point out that some people apparently don't know how to spell, even if you spot them the entire word. I've been saying, "S-as-in-Sam-h-a-r-F-as-in-Frank" for so long it really it one long, hyphenated word. Apparently, for some people hearing it for the first time, "F-as-in-Frank" sounds like, "P." And so on the Newport Q3 2006 Conference Call Transcript I will forever be "Joshua Sharp." *Sigh* Perhaps she was just translating it from the Yiddish.
It's earnings season, and I also need to upload a bunch of our updates to First Call and Bloomberg, so it's going to be light blogging, I think.
Working on a new song, and a couple of possibly original insights into the Islamsts. Otherwise, nothing much going on.
My father was in town visiting for the weekend, so we had a chance to drive up to Loveland Pass (snowy, windy, closed) and around the Dillon Reservoir before the show. He actually made it to the studio, but ESPN and Don Imus notwithstanding, radio isn't the most exciting thing in the world to watch. Sadly, he refused John's invitation to sing.
He was expected, but not until Friday evening, so when the dog started up at 3:00 AM Friday morning, the house was a scene of much confusion. Turns out the he decided to save a night's hotel room and turn I-70 into his own private Le Mans de 24 hour. I wasn't feeling terrific to begin with and I'm afraid his first day here was spent mostly reading the paper and watching me drink tea.
The bad news is that he headed back this morning. The good news is that there's hope, after all. Just remember: "When dangling, use participles."
I can't say I'm a big fan of diagramming sentences. I do think that the best way to write well is to read a lot, but only after you learn to operate the machinery, and grammar is the machinery. Grammar isn't the engine, but rather the stick shift. Get it right, and you've got both power and control at your disposal. Screw it up, and you've stripped the gears and burnt out the head gasket. Stretch a metaphor too far, and you sound like a pompous moron. Some people figure this stuff out early. We call them, "writers." Some people never quite get the hang of it, and we call them, "editors."
Making a fetish of grammar is an unappealing but probably necessary phase for anyone who takes it seriously. I'm glad to say that I am now more likely to be confused than morally offended at mistakes in parallel construction, for instance. More like to roll my eyes than to cringe at people who think "it's" is possessive. According to his daughter, Clifton Fadiman had taken to correcting restaurant menus on red ink, although not to actually grading them. This seems to me going too far. Subsequent patrons deserve the levity of seeing chicken described as "foul" just as much as you do.
Strunk and White (or, Strunk and White) get it about right - the important thing is to be understood, and grammar should aid, not inhibit, that quest. If you're spending minutes on end trying to shoehorn your idea into a 4th-grade teacher's idea of proper grammar, you might want to tear up the sentence, or the idea, or both, and start over.
The other advantage of my Dad's visit was that I had a chance to introduce him to a couple of my best friends in town. Both Dad and Dov have a virtually inexhaustible fund of stories, so they were able to keep each other entertained. You might think I was bored by hearing two sets of stories for the multipleth time, but in fact, it just keeps me sharp listening for something new. In my Dad's case, it turns out that a couple of bank robbery stories (cut it out: he used to work at a bank, not rob them) that were separate had somehow merged into one in my retellings. With them untangled, I now have two stories instead of one.
I also spent Shabbat reading a couple of essays by my favorite essayist, Joseph Epstein. If there are any books by Epstein you don't possess, fix that. Now. I don't save and display emails, but I was delighted to get a reply to a fan email I sent Mr. Epstein telling him that the only reason I had bought a particular number of the Weekly Standard was one of this essays.
Most of his stuff is somewhat light, a little wisful. But his essay defending Mencken against charges of anti-Semitisim is serious business, even if he seems to have lost his lonely argument with the rest of academia. The judgment was so swift and so decisive, even if so unjust, that in the 15 years or so since the controversy over his diaries erupted, Mencken has been quietly dropped from the journalistic pantheon by the same people who've squandered all the capital he spent his career building up. Any biopic is unthinkable, since he exists now only as a caricature of a curmudgeon.
It wasn't enough to shut down the city - although I did seem some plows in search of accumulation yesterday afternoon. It was enough to collapse the as-yet-still-assembled sukkah. I had planned to take the thing down Monday evening, but events, as they say, overcame. So of course, it finally collapsed in a heap of plastic, PVC, and tinsel. The truly amazing part is that the whole thing didn't just turn into a giant Pick-Up-Stix project when I backed the Jeep away from it this morning. Trees still dry from the summer went down, too. There was one blocking Ogden at Speer this morning.
It never stuck to the streets, but this morning, the clouds burned off to show white foothills for the first time this year. That's starting to melt already, too, but it's a warning that Winter's here, and he means business.
Naturally, the sodding is just going to have to wait until Spring, if it happens at all. I may still rent a tiller on Sunday and try to till, seed, and weed-kill the back yard, and see what comes up in April.
So I'm sitting here in the Cherry Creek Panera, trying desperately not to stare at the girl in the actual tin foil hat. It looks like a colonial-era wig, only made from folded sheets of aluminum foil. Once upon a time I would have gone up to her and asked her what bet she lost.
I also notice that, for some reason, Panera seems to have switched from classical to jazz. This isn't a step down, but it's at least a step...over. It changes the feel of the place, to a little more hip and a little less civilized. I'm not sure why it was necessary; when I've been here during lunch, they draw an SRO crowd with plenty of high school students not scared off by the sounds of violins and brass.
In other change news, it'll soon be ok for me to get more than an emerency couple of gallons at the 7-11 downhill from the house. 7-11 has announced that it's dropping Hugo Chavez's personal ATM, Citgo, as its gasoline supplier. I've been boycotting Citgo for years, and now I'll probably have a chance to support semi-local Sinclair. It's actually based in SLC, but everytime I drive through Wyoming, I drive past a gigantic Sinclair refinery ("The Most Modern Refinery in the US!", which it was when the sign went up). It's local oil, made from real Wyoming dinosaurs, yessir.
Boston City Councillor Jerry McDermott want to take down the Citgo sign overlooking the Green Monster, although with the Saux having missed the playoffs, it's a moot point for a few months, anyway. And independent Mass. gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos wants to dump Citgo as his gas supplier for his convenience stores. The Boston Globe, naturally, doesn't get it. They still want to accept Chavez's gift of oil for the poor, so maybe they should change their motto to, "Ain't Too Proud To Beg."
I've also put up a new section on the site, which I may be expanding over time. It's a collection of anti-Hitler political cartoons, along with a little commentary and discussion. Sooner or later, maybe sooner, I'll put a link to it on the homepage. For now, this is the ony way to get there.
The Instaprof notes that cursive may be joining shorthand in the Bourne From Which No Penmanship Returns. Most answers in bluebooks now tend to be block printed rather than written. Shorthand is long-gone, a victim of the boss's abillity to type his own memos now, and I suspect that even long written answers will be passe soon. The Palm Grafiti was a clever intermediate step, but you'll notice that manufacturers started attaching keyboards to their PDAs as soon as they could figure out how to.
Reynolds notes that beautiful script is a small loss, but in fact, penmanship has been deteriorating for well over a century. If you can dig up a hand-written letter from, say, 1900, look at the writing, and you'll see that the script is so elegant it's almost unreadable by the modern eye. Losing script altogether is the next step in functionality.
In fact, I still write cursive most of the time, a decision that dates back to college. My own handwriting used to be unreadable to the modern eye, too, or any eye for that matter. Growing up I probably had the worst penmanship withing 50 miles of DC. The only reason it wasn't a greater radius is that I'm sure there was some senile nonegenarian in Baltimore who could barely scratch out his request that the soup be smoother next time. I write left-handed, but I throw, kick, and bat right-handed, so maybe that has something to do with it.
My handwriting was so bad (how bad was it?) it was so bad, that my 8th-grade Geometry teach, Mr. Allison, used to grade down my homework assignments because he claimed he had to work too hard to read all those right answers. Didn't help when I started spending an hour lettering them. Didn't help when I switched to ink. B. B-. 100%. B+. In the long run, the grade wasn't that important, but these were high school grades now, and if I wanted to get into Virginia, A's were going to have to be the order of the day. I wasn't going to let some frustrated calligrapher stand between me and Cavalierdom.
The only thing that helped was when I started typing - yes, with an Underwood electric typewriter, typing, my assignments. I typed out the proofs (you know, rule you're using on the left, logical result on the right, like an accounting T-chart). I used an underlined ! for "perpendicular," and an underlined / for "angle," and went back and drew in the "T". Not being a complete idiot, I penciled the solid-geometry drawings, then traced them over in ink. Finally, "A's."
My handwriting was pretty much the same through the first couple of years in college. Third year, I read a column by George Will about the virtues of fountain pens (I suspect another one is forthcoming on the heels of this article), and went out and got a cheap $10 model at Rose's. I liked it, so I got myself a more expensive Schaeffer model a few months later.
So I had the dream-to-write-with pen, one you couldn't really print with, and I decided to slow down and upgrade my handwriting to match. Write slowly, and everything falls into line. The first time a checkout girl complemented me on my handwriting I almost asked her out. I was 25, and I can honestly say it was the first time in my life I had heard the words, "wow, that's really nice handwriting." The only reason I knew she wasn't making fun of my was that I asked if she were.
So, another buggy-whip skill mastered just in time.
Unfortunately, the sodders won't be here until the 17th of October, so Sukkot will have to take place in the embarassing wilderness that the back yard has become. At least there aren't shards of broken glass, but I will have to clean the place up from the dog's various deposits of toys and, ah, dog deposits.
But that's tomorrow. Today, it's get ready for Yom Kippur. Naturally, for a fast day, the bagel store was hoppin'. As usual they had brought in some extra help for the day, and as usual, they didn't know any of the prices or the clientele. No matter. For a staff trying to deal with a bunch of Jews, they were doing pretty well.
From there, it was on to a nice, long walk with the dog at the dog park. Cherry Creek Reservoir has a hugh off-leash area, and while Sage used to play with the other dogs, now he mostly just enjoys the chance to run freely and smell everything without being dragged along on a rope. He did manage to find a chocolate lab his size to play with this time. He dutifully tried to dominate him, and the chocolate let him get away with it for a while before running away and seeing if Sage would give chase.
I apologized to the owners for Sage's behavior, but they said they didn't mind, and actually were laughing at their own dog's failure to hit back. I give them credit. Usually, I'm a little embarassed by Sage's need to show every other dog who's boss, but the real problem isn't with the other dogs, it's with the owners who seem either offended or threatened by it. The other dog will have one of three reactions. Either he'll put up with it indefinitely. Or she'll take it seriously, get her hackles up, and let Sage know that he should at least spring for dinner and a movie. Or he'll start playing himself. Any of these reactions is ok, and the dogs will generally figure it out. If a dog is the type who won't figure it out, he shouldn't be off-leash at a dog park. But I've run into owners who've gotten really angry at this stuff, and one jackass who actually started throwing tennis balls at Sage.
Tennis balls! Why didn't I think of that? Perfect! Let's punish a dog who's playing with our dog by rewarding him with a game of fetch! In that case, it wasn't just the guy's dog who could have used a little socialization.
No today's idiots were of a different order. Now the sign clearly states that Motorized Vehicles are not allowed. Fair enough. There are horses out there, dogs who think they have the unfettered right of way, little kids who aren't exactly known for situational awareness. Yet some mother thought it was perfectly fine for her little tyke to go riding around in the big-wheels version of an ATV. I could have outrun the thing, when her little angel does what boys do and tries to catch that little dog with the short legs and bad hearing, she's gonne regret it.
The other was a comment I heard on the way out of the park: "Gee, I hope she's not in heat again..." Gee, I hope she was talking about her dog. Or maybe not. I had Sage's doghood snipped off before he had a chance to miss it, but why on God's green earth would you bring a dog in heat to an off-leash dog park unless you wanted a lot of company? And this in a country with mandatory sex ed in the schools.
Then it was on to a tour of the Evil Big Box stores: Wal-Mart and Home Depot. I still think the liberal hatred of Wal-Mart doesn't have anything to do with unions, health benefits, cheap generics, or leaning on suppliers. I think it dates back to their unwillingness to carry certain books, magazines, and CDs on the theory that, well, they didn't want to carry them. The Left went ballistic, screaming, "censorship," when in fact, if they had the least bit of imagination, they would have been screaming, "business opportunity." Or at least attending shareholders meetings.
As it happens, Costco is also on the Odyssey. I noticed that Air America has a book out, with the ravings of their various hosts. Just in time for bankruptcy! Someone pointed out that Air America had found the one talk radio format that doesn't work. You can get people to listen to other people talking about anything, from cars to fantasy baseball to whatever This American Life thinks counts as human interest. But these bozos managed to fail with politics.
I actually like Costco. They have kosher Empire chickens, much cheaper than the deli. Not once but twice people saw them in my cart at or after checkout, and wanted to know where they were in the store. In one case, it was a couple of Israelis in the parking lot. They didn't know when the deli closed, but since it's on the speed dial, I called and asked for them. That's one of those scenes that was completely unimaginable 10 years ago, and will probably be again 2 years from now, when I'll just pull out the web PDA and check the website.
The one thing I don't like about Costco is having to wait untl you clear the store to pocket the receipt. The opposite-of-the-greeter solemnly checks the list, including the items buried in the box where she can't possibly see them, checks them all off, and you are finally released to your car. I can't believe that company management still thinks actually accomplishes anything.
Sandwiched in-between was a small-shirt drop-off at Goodwill. I pulled into the motorized drop-off lane, and then called out to the guy in front of me, "Don?" Turned out it was the guy who used to own Willow Creek Books, one of my favorite used book stores. He always had new stuff, the best selection of Judaica in town, and was the source of numerous presents, including a book of opera librettos compressed into doggerel. When he was selling out, I considered buying the store from him and taking it Internet-only, but couldn't figure out the financing.
Still a small town in a lot of ways.
All right, on to Yom Tov. See you on the other side. Or at least, that's what I'm praying for.
I don't see any way around it. The whole format of this thing is going to have to change, probably to something more like Lileks, only without the witty comedy stylings. When I worked at home, I would get up early, maybe around 6:00, to read the papers and have something to blog on, or at least something to chew on. Now, I get up at 5:00 and still have something to chew on, but it's a bagel on the way in to work. It's pretty much non-stop meetings and report-writing until at least 7:30, usually 8:00. And then maybe I get a chance to look at the paper. So having something to blog on with my (or your) coffee is pretty much impossible.
Since I like to actually have something to say, rather than just reacting to the first headline that crosses the monitor, I'm beginning to think that the best thing to do is to set aside a serious 15-30 mins at night for writing. Anything during the day is bonus. I know, I've been at this for 4 years and I'm still figuring out when I say it, never mind what I say. Well, hey, it's worth what you pay for it.
I'm also typing this on the new Bloomberg keyboard they sent me. The keys feel different. They're flatter, don't have as much give, and some of them are slightly smaller leading to unsightly errors when I have to used the arrow or INS-DEL-HOME-END keys. All this for a subscription that may not even be renewed in a month. The top row of keys doesn't work yet, and since I don't want to reboot right now, I may not find out until Tuesday if they ever will. There's also a plug for the speakers, in case I want to listen to Hugh & Dennis through my keyboard rather than proper speakers. I don't think the thing is programmed to filter out everything but Bloomberg radio; it's not Microsoft, after all.
Still, it's a real Bloomberg keyboard, none of those cheesy stick-on overlays that look like the last page in a book of S&H Green Stamps, where you picked up the groceries at the gas station because you only needed one more row to fill out the book.
There's also this cool gizmo in the upper-right where I can sign in using my thumb, saving me a full 5 SECONDS!!! in the morning, but also making me wonder if the next time the phone rings it'll be Jack on the other end asking me to move satellites around for him.
In the meantime, Monday's Yom Kippur. We all know about Yom Kippur, but it's worth remembering that while it's a fast day, it's solemn without being somber. The intention is self-reflection, not self-flagellation, and at the end of the day, the break fast is usually festive, and often held at peoples' homes. There are certain parts of Jewish culture that tend to survive even the most benign environments, and the Yom Kippur break fast is one of them.
One of the guys here at the office, who's about as Jewish as you can get and even more non-religious, is hosting a break fast at his home Monday night. His wife insists on real babka, real chocolate bobka, even if it's the last one in the store. He sent the other trader off to the East Side Kosher Deli, Denver's only reliable babka supplier, and in the course of events, bought lunch for everyone. Thus was Wm. Smith & Co. treated to the spectacle of everyone else in the office being trained on the proper way to eat a kosher pastrami sandwich, while the only guy who keeps kosher was chowing down on a beef enchilada.
It was also Decision Day for the sod guy. Through a combination of drought & dog, the back yard has been gradually transformed from an edenic paradise into a weed-infested wilderness. It's time to give up and start over. I've already got the sprinkler system, although it could use a little repair work itself, but it's time to make the back yard fit for public display. Not to mention working from, with a tall glass of iced tea and perhaps even lunch.
The kicker is that there are some sections that are still shielded from the sun, where even the depredation of Landscaping by Sharf couldn't stamp out the grass, and it flourishes still. I've suggested leaving it, but the sod companies all assure me that it won't match, and that the only thing worse than weeds and grass is grass that doesn't match. Apparently inside of every sod installer is a little Givenchy struggling to get out.
In the end, though, for the moment, it looks like October 17. So on the same date that Burgoyne surrendered Saratoga, and Cornwallis surrendered Yorktown, my old yard will be surrendering to reality. Ironically, it's also the anniversary of the date the President Grant suspended habeus corpus in certain counties in the South. Make of it what you will, but no doubt the jackboots will be roughing up the new sod any day now.
I had forgotten what it's like to live in a jungle. I grew up outside of DC, so was acclimated to Tarzan-like confditions from early on. So when I moved to Denver, the dryness was a revelation and a relief. Coming back east and south in August has reminded me what it's like to swim to your car from your front door.
I'm typing this in my sister's kitchen nook watching the cardinals feed at the trough and fend off squirrels. That's another thing we don't have out west. Cardinals, not squirrels. We have magpies, redwing blackbirds, and the occasional meadowlark, but no cardinals.
The occasion is my niece's bat mitzvah, and my parents' 50th anniversary. My parents didn't want to steal her thunder, so it was just a dinner out for that. Off-Broadway, the kosher meat restaurant here, has tremendous fried chicken and chicken florentine. Orthodox synagogues don't give girls or women aliyahs, so she'll be speaking at her party on Sunday night. Everything else is a lead-up to that Big Moment.
The family I'm staying with hasn't got wifi, despite other fine accomodations, so it's going to be catch-as-catch-can, but that's the life of the blogger on the road.
Yesterday, before the show, I finally went to go take the Official NRA Basic Pistol course, to qualify for the dreaded Concealed Carry Permit. Now, it's not like I'm going to be packing heat on the way into work or into the studio, although after the last few segments we've done on Islam that might not be a bad idea. Yes, it was the shootings in Seattle that prompted it.
The course was taught by a part-time police officer from Morrison. Naturally, I asked him what a police officer was doing promoting gun ownership and a publicly, if secretly, armed society. Every time one of the states relaxes gun laws, the chief of police and the union president make dire pronouncement about how YouTube will be filled with live re-enactments of My Darling Clementine. That is, if there are any bloggers left who haven't been plugged in the back while they were uploading the video. (Hint: always blog with your back to a wall.) The fact that vendors in DC, where you have to be dead - as in you're a Civil War veteran - to legally own a gun, were selling t-shirts featuring the foreshortened barrel of a revolver with the caption, "Welcome to DC, Sorry We Missed You," somehow escapes their attention.
In fact, he said, most policemen favor responsible concealed carry, for the same reason you do. By the time they get there, most of the time all they can do is take the report, quite possibly from bystanders.
In any event, it went well. I qualified on the gentleman's .22 revolver (small beer compared to my .357), and his Colt .45, 1911, which is responsible for the casts on my forearms. I'm typing this with a pencel held in my mouth.
So on Wedneday, it's downtown to Cop Central to run the background checks and get the permit. Assuming I haven't committed any felonies I don't know about, and now that I've paid off the dog warrants, I'll be cleared to carry.
Another planned weekend. There may be a chance to do a little more Jeeping between now and Rosh Hashanah (which leads into an entire month of planned weekends), but for the moment, it's obligations and time to catch up on a lot of deferred maintenance.
So of course, Saturday night, we went to see World Trade Center. Stone tried on this one, he really did. But a lot of the scenes involve two guys trapped under tons of rubble talking to each other. At one point I thought the movie had gone all avant garde break-down-the-fourth-wall on us, because when the two cops kept imploring each other not to sleep, it sounded like advice to the audience. Keeping dramatic tension is difficult when you know the outcome, but that's why Oliver's making the big bucks. For his homework, he should go see Miracle.
The religious aspects were interesting, though. The steely-eyed marine who bluffs his way onto the pile to look for survivors feels as commanded to do that as the murderers felt commanded to create the pile in the first place. Kearnes is tough, and ironically, the only guy to try to talk some sense into him is his pastor. Well, if you've been following the course of mainline establishment Protestantism for the last few years, maybe that's not so surprising.
Then to sleep. Sort of. There's no air conditioning, so the attic fan has to suck in the cool night air. Except that the local Pepe Le Pew has been perfuming that for the last few weeks on an occasional basis. Usually at 3:30 AM, he sees the local fox, smells the dog, takes offense at some passing traffic, and lets one fly. Which means getting up and closing the window. And then trying to get back to sleep.
Sunday was Work Day. After the bike-riding. I'm up to 55 minutes on the new bike (the old one having ground itself to bits), and hoping to be up to full speed, hour-a-day riding by this evening. As usual, I'm working on some Teaching Company CDs. The prof is up to Thoreau, and while he's clearly an admirer, he does ttake time to point out that spending your life single, out in the woods, taking little responsibility, and in contempt of the people who buy your books, is perhaps not the most mature philosophy of life, and that we've run into it before, in "Rip Van Winkle." How ironic does that make this, then?
The time spent cleaning the gutters may be solid, honest, character-building work, but it's also three hours of my life I'll never get back. Then to hacking up some wood we've had lying around curing into a fire hazard for a few months, and why not weed a little and mow the lawn while you're already covered in mud?
The good news is that whatever browning disease that has attacked the Bishop Weed at least seems to have been arrested, so there's hope that more BW is the right answer. At least it doesn't need much light. The bad news is that the plants I put down on that strip have been absorbed and overrun by the co-stars of Weeds on a Plane, harsh, mean-looking toughs from a neighborhood I don't want to live in. They need eviction.
The show this week was different - expansion into the Colorado Springs market. Maybe with Beauprez's Lt. Gov. pick, we can get into Grand Junction next. It would certainly make those weekend trips around the state easier to manager, with a remote studio to come into.
The most disappointing part of the show was the Muslims for American founder we had on, one Muhammed Ali Hassan. I really wanted this to be The Guy, the Moderate Muslim we've all been searching for, and truth be told, neither Mr. Hassan nor anyone welcome in his organization is going to use 9/11 as a role model. But when you try to tell me that people are making semtex a part of their morning commute because of a couple of basis points on a mortgage, you've lost me.
And then, back home and back to sleep. Fortunately, no skunks last night.
Yesterday was the Big Driving Day. We went from Glenwood, up to Rangely and then across on US-40 to Vernal. Coming into SLC from Duchesne, we took Utah 35 rather than US-40, which I had done before. Cows, cows, cows, in mountains that are sharp, but which live below the treeline.
Stayed last night at the fabulously appointed Hotel Sabin. Come for the bed, stay for the vegetables!
The last one, as the class graduates! This was actually one about leadership, and I have to admit, a useful refresher for all those classes from b-school. The afternoon's case study was about Rudy Giuliani and his response to 9/11, and it's an episode worth studying for anyone who wants to know why he's a better bet than McCain to get the more-center-than-right vote for the Republican nomination in 2008.
I want to thank Bob Schaffer and Shari Williams for a terrific program. As was mentioned at last class, Bob's got a terrific grasp of all the issues, philosophical, legal, and economic, and is one of the few capable of synthesizing them and applying them to the issues of the day.
I strongly recommend the program for anyone who's interested in understanding the values that America was founded on and that need protecting now more than ever.
Mark Malloch Brown's comments yesterday aren't the first time he's denigrated the US. Here's a snippet from a Newsweek interview from the January 17th issue, just before he became the No. 2 guy there (emphasis added):
Q: Is this a chance for the United Nations to show that it is truly a viable organization, given questions about its relevance during the debate on the Iraq war?
A: This is one of the things that even the United Nations' critics usually acknowledge it's good at—humanitarian intervention. We had disaster teams on the ground within a day. We have very strong country offices in all the [affected] countries, who were already at work by the time those disaster teams arrived. We have a network of disaster partners from around the world who were quickly mobilized by this. We do this well. We couldn't do it without the logistics backbone of the United States and others, but there's recognition that it's a more internationally acceptable way to do it. But I don't think, in terms of the United Nations' standing, that we'll slay all the other ghosts we need to have good answers on—what happened with [the scandal-plagued Iraqi] Oil-for-Food [program], and if there were management failings to address them. The United Nations needs to take a good, hard look at itself and go though a series of management reforms to make ourselves more effective.
I suppose one has to defend, at least publicly, the things that your organization is supposed to do well. But this is delusional. The offices on the ground had damn well better have been working before the UN relief teams got there - they had weeks to dry out their things and get started. Mark Steyn has pointed out that while the UN was flying teams into New York to assess the cholera risk, the US and Australian had been distributing aid to Indonesia to invalidate those risk assessments. Malloch Brown makes it sound like the Southern Pacific arm of the Anglosphere was little more than a ferry service for UN men and materiel.
And what's with this "internationally acceptable?" The Indonesians were doing everything but carry our sailors around on their shoulders when they showed up. (All except for the few in Bande Aceh, who were holding their fellow Muslims hostage again.) This food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and family reunification efforts were plenty acceptable to the people on the receiving end, which is all that counts. When you've seen half your family swept out to sea, and the other half are staring various and sundry forms of death in the eye, who gives a damn what some "international civil servant" thinks is acceptable?
For more turf-building cognitive dissonance, see here.
UPDATE: This, on the other hand, doesn't sound so hostile.
I recently had my bank card number stolen. (I'm not the only one.) A duplicate card was used in Georgia, where I haven't been in months. According to Wells Fargo, it's likely that the thieves used a machine to capture my card information at the point of sale, and create a new card.
The card's been canceled, the money's back on the way into the account, and everything's fine, except for the stores that got ripped off, or their insurance companies, or their policy-holders, or else someone's attorneys. But the fact is, there's almost nothing I could have done to prevent this.
I'm planning on filing a report with the Denver police, but it's possible that the card could have been ripped off anywhere I've been. If the crooks were patient enough to wait six months between theft and use, it could even have been in Atlanta. Still, there's a decent chance of catching the guys who used the card. The only disappointment being that they're almost certainly part of a bigger criminal operation, and that we'll never touch the ringleaders.
Maybe they'll let me drive the van from the courthouse to prison.
Both the News and the Post have run articles about Denver's growing graffiti problem in recent weeks. As more of us subscribe to the "Broken Windows" theory (even as fewer of us subscribe to the papers themselves), this is a very bad sign indeed. Graffiti can either be a gang-tagging or individual ego-gratification, but in either case, it's a leading indicator of very public trouble.
Neither article bothered to mention Denver's Police graffiti hotline, part of Denver Partners Against Graffiti, where you can call to report graffiti and have it painted over. I've called in the past, and spoken to the cop who interprets the stuff before they obliterate it. In the case of gang members marking their territory, getting a good look at the tags before they're painted over can help track gang movements and ambitions.
(This reminds me of a Victor Borge joke that got him put on the last boat to America.
Q: What's the difference between a Nazi and a dog?
A: A dog lifts his leg to relieve himself.
So, what do you do when you're on the World's Most Uncomfortable CPAP Machine for sleep apnea, have "sleep gates" at, like, 12:00 midnight, Restless Leg Syndrome, daily office meetings at 6:30 AM (because your brokerage works on market hours), a need to wake up at 5:00 AM, and a tendency to do so at 3:30? And, a subconscious that can't understand why, if you're getting up in 90 minutes anyway, you can't just go read the paper online?
Well, you could just suffer from non-sleep until you wrap your Jeep around a light pole, or end up like Lt. Dunbar. Or, you could ask your doctor for a sleeping pill! Unless, of course, one of them is out of town, and the other seems to keep losing your phone number.
For the moment, it's Unisom all the way, but that's a very temporary solution.
On the other hand, the auto-coupon generator spat out a free 7-day trial for Ambien, which, judging by this, should be renamed Ambulent.
But something, some virus, has my immune system responding in overdrive. It kept me off the radio yesterday, and kept me from finishing off the gardening project.
The back yard had, in 6 years, gone from tended garden to primeval weeded wilderness. So, in the first, tentative attempts to reclaim this piece of land for civilization, I planted some lilacs along the north fence. (No, not this, lilacs, silly.)
Of course, the soak hose is part of the sprinkler system, which the maintenance guy is coming to look at tomorrow morning. Fortunately, just as my buying a condo was enough to burst the late-80s DC housing bubble, my planting lilacs was enough to bring on a hail storm last night.
Six years ago, I took a short trip to go snowmobiling (no, not like that, or that) at Yellowstone National Park. I happened to hear a radio show with the then-newly-released-upon-the-world violinist Hilary Hahn. She played couple of pieces, which I liked, and the names of which I promptly forgot.
Twenty years ago, this would have entailed tracking down the DJ, asking them to remember to look up the show manifest when they got back to the studio, and send me the playlist. In fact, it did just that, when I carried around the memory of a couple of unnamed but stunning violin concertos for 3 years.
Now, it's a visit to the show's website, a search on Miss Hahn's name, and a swing by iTunes. In about 5 minutes I can track down and grab recordings of the music by various Eminent Performers, and then take them with me, if I so choose.
I pay less for them than I earn while listening to them.
Now, if I could just manage to get the household wifi to stay connected while encrypted, I could do all this on the patio.
As I mentioned before, I'm transferring a bunch of my old tapes onto CD. Most of what I'm bothering to move is either off the radio or in mono. In this case, it's old Glenn Miller 45s that my parents had on a special RCA release from about 50 years ago. I taped them for some reason, and in this case, I can work, documenting some code for a client I'm finishing up with, pausing to break the recording into tracks on the software. Surprinsgly, given all the lousy treatment the tapes have been through, they still sound pretty good.
It appears that the break-in to the Blackstone, Mass. water supply was the work of teens, rather than terrorists:
Two boys and a girl have been arrested in connection with the water supply scare in Blackstone. This comes as people there anxiously wait for test results to come back this afternoon. The system was shut down Tuesday after someone broke into the town’s water storage facility, sparking fears it may be contaminated.
Police said all three suspects are 15 years old....
Police say the three teens broke into the facility Monday night. It houses a 1.3 million-gallon storage tank that supplies water to Blackstone and part of North Smithfield.
Someone cut barbed wire to enter the complex, cut the lines to an alarm, and then damaged an electrical panel and a vent at the top of the tank.
Authorities say the group left behind an empty, 5-gallon container that had an odor. Investigators were unsure whether it belonged to the water supply company that uses the facility.
OK, so it's not exactly Bierko dumping nerve gas into your home furnace, but the bad guys are watching. Since there's probably no way of securing every utility facility in the country against penetration, this sort of thing is going to have to be handled downstream through chemicals and filtration. Electrified and alarmed fences aren't a bad idea, though.
Hugh's new book is out! It's basically the "take, clear, and hold" strategy of national politics, and you can buy it here. Colorado (along with Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio) are the battleground states Hugh identifies. Speaking from the front lines, I'd say he's got the Colorado part pegged.
As part of getting serious about cleaning up the house, I needed to get rid of a bunch of old audio tapes I've been keeping forever. I needed to audio equivalent of transferring home movies from Disneyworld in digital, and I stumbled across Digitalizer by Digitope. So far, it seems to be working all right, although the quality is difficult to regulate since there's no audio output from the system as it's recording. Still, it lets you cut an any-CD-player-ready CD, which is mostly what I'm going for on these old tapes.
The biggest problem is the editing. The visual display doesn't stay synched with the track that's playing, so there's a lot of scrolling back and forth, which makes track-realignment a real pain. Since most of the tapes are tapes of radio shows, the individual tracks aren't very clear, so I spend a lot of time with this crummy feature.
The fastest you can dub, and retain any kind of quality, is 1 sec/sec. You know how whenever Lileks starts a new book, he kvetches about spending more time with his scanner than with his daughter? This has the potential to turn into that kind of thing,
My parents just returned from a 3-week cruise of Australia and New Zealand. (You know, New Zealand, land of 21 million sheep, 4 million of whom think they're people.)
It turns out that Australia doesn't have much problem with jaywalking. Apparently, the street crossing signs are pretty clear, and if you get hit by a car jaywalking, you're responsible for the damage to the car. That's not quite like the Chinese billing the families for the bullets, in that Australia's rule actually seems just.
Greenwood Village (at least I think it's Greenwood Village; ever since that whole Centennial Secession thing a few years ago, I can never tell) has put up red light cameras at some of its intersections. Boulder's been using them for a while.
Why these are legal under Colorado law when the unmanned photo radar vans aren't is beyond me. Maybe because the red lights are fixed, shouldn't be surprised. And yet you are, anyway. I was at a red light, stopped behind the line for the little old lady with the stolen grocery cart. The light changed, I entered the intersection, and Saw The Flash. Suddenly, I was like a Democrat who's had his office account records subpoenaed. I have not gotten a pic-tick in the mail, so I can say with a clear conscience and some credibility that - unlike that Democrat - I didn't do anything wrong. And I still spent the next 5 seconds trying to figure out what had happened.
Reynolds's suggestion is intriguing. But as everyone who's ever gotten a ticket knows, for most drivers, the cost of the ticket is a nice meal out (unless you've decided to bring NASCAR to I-25), and the points don't accumulate unless you're terminally distracted. It's the insurance. And if there's a public record, even as a warning or points on the license, the insurance companies are going to want to know about it.
Maybe I was just imagining it, or maybe I felt left out, but there were some bumps on the back of my neck that seemed to be getting larger, and a couple I hadn't noticed before. And when you live in Cancer Country with a complexion like the Pillsbury dough-boy, you can't be too careful. Yes, I do tan, but I also burn. So, Thursady, after three-week wait, it was off to the dermatologist for a look-see.
Thank goodness, nothing. The doctor himself had a bedside manner that could best be described as Late Postmodern Undertaker, but he wasn't unpleasant or nasty, so when he said that the "moles" were just skin pricks, I refrained from making the obvious joke.
In the meantime, I had spent about a week and a half feeling wiped-out, dizzy, exhausted, and light-headed during the day. (Gee, we couldn't tell a thing. -ed. Uh, thanks.)
Doctor: Do you wake up feeling like you want to go back to sleep?
Doctor: Now, about the Restless Legs Synd- ow!
And so, Thursday night, it was off to the Sleep Center for a raucous night of highly-monitored and much-interrupted bed-rest. They hook you up with about twenty-five sensors, the best that can be said about which, is that it's not preceded by the phrase, "Send in Richards." On the other hand, it's also not followed by, "This'll help with the pain."
Thusly attired, with enough muscle sensors that I could fly an F14 remotely by moving only my eyes, I turned in for half the night. (Actually, given that it was private, it wasn't nearly as bad as the time an optometrist sent me outside - through the waiting room - wearing these to make sure the prescription was right this time. Walking back, I caught some woman staring at me, and turned and said, "Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.")
Halfway through, they start the real experiment - the dreaded CPAP machine. For those of you who aren't acquainted with the CPAP machine, it fits over your nose, and gently forces air down into your lungs, the theory being that if you can't breathe out, you can't wake up. Actually, it's not all that bad once you get used to it, although the air flow practically forces air into your mouth if you try to open it, making it more or less impossible to speak.
Actually, as I was writing this, the doctor called, and it turns out I do have "severe sleep apnea," although with oxygen loss, which means that for now, it's making me very tired, but it's not turning me into a coronary risk. This isn't an entirely surprising diagnosis, inasmuch as the last truly restful sleep I had was in September of 2000. Really.
So the CPAP machine looks like it's going to be a semi-permanent fixture. The good news is that I'll actually wake up feeling like it, which may give me more energy, and boost the immune system to the point where I don't get sick every time I lose weight.
My niece, Jamie, is in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this morning. She's spending a fair amount of her free time collecting hats for kids with cancer. (And an 11-year-old in a dual Hebrew-Secular curriculum doesn't have much free time.)
If you have any hats you want to donate, let me know, and I'll tell you the best way to get them to her.
And you thought this was another Cheney/Lawyer joke. Really, haven't we had enough of those already?
No, I'm spending the long weekend up here in Estes Park, and the town was the site yesterday of one of the local World's Strongest Dog competitions. I walked down from the motel to go see, and surprisingly, about 100 people had turned out to watch.
The idea is pretty simple: harness up a dog and see how much weight he can pull. Evidently, pretty much any dog will pull, although after the Shih-Tzus are finished, they use them as the incremental weights for the Labs.
Labs? Labs, you say? Yes. Labs. Sage would probably look at me and wonder why, if I wanted the cart over there, I didn't pull it there myself.
It turns out that the owner is allowed to stand at the finish line and encourage his dog, but can't actually touch the dog. (There's virtually no risk of injury; apparently a dog will run until his heart explodes, but won't pull a weight he thinks is too heavy, so he just sits down and waits for his treat.) The bull terriers and elk hounds and boxers waited until the owner got to the line.
The labs, as soon as they say their handler starting to walk away, started whining and crying and jumping up and down. "OK, fine, you want to be with me? Walk over here, then." At one point, the handler used the shopping mall trick, well-known to all lab-owners and parents of 5-year-olds: continuing to walk away.
One lab managed to pull 780 pounds. He can pull 2005 pounds on wheels. Evidently, dogs with severe separation anxiety do well in this sport.
One of the commentary tracks for the 2nd season contains the following exchange between Executive Producer Joel Surnow, and the actress who plays the First Lady, Penny Johnson:
Her: This is the beauty of 24 here, in terms of casting. I enjoy when I see people who look like me, and look like other people, and represent the full spectrum of people without making a big deal out of it.
Him: That's because the show's written by Republicans, Penny, not bleeding-heart liberals.
After which, they go into an extended exchange about how Johnson's vast admiration for Condi Rice is causing her to re-think her alleigance to the Democrats.
For those of you lucky enough to have escaped this civic duty, you show up at the courthouse, and are told to site in a large room and wait your turn to be called for a case. This room has TVs for those instructional videos we all thought we left behind in college. It also has sound, which somehow starting piping in local radio, drowning out the lady giving us instructions. What it doesn't have it wifi, which wasn't entirely unexpected in a 70-year-old building.
Naturally, I was late, so I got to stand in the back until the first set of jurors had been rounded up. I finally found a seat, and in walked my friend Mike. This was also not unexpected. I'm convinced there's some sort of rolling geographic filter at work here. Nobody I know got called for duty the first 8 years I lived here, and now, suddenly, 6 other people in my precinct get recruited.
The video itself, as the plaintiff's attorney later admitted, didn't really tell you anything except not to be scared, and that you probably wouldn't have to give up your life for the next 2 months. It was capped by a personal thanks from a nearly-comatose Chief Justice Mary Mullarky. The whole video is about how important we are to the system, how we are the system, how people like us designed the system. And then the Chief Judge in the system smiles like she's getting a cue from a director telling her to look like a stewardess and "big smiles, everyone!"
Now, I was late, but I was also dressed right - collar and tie. I was one of three. The whole room was dressed more like a defendant than a juror. Honestly, people, show a little respect. If you're a defendant, or even if you're the little-guy plaintiff looking for justice, would you really want your fate decided by people who's sense of fashion comes from Bill Bellichek on gameday?
Here's an idea: instead of making everyone sit through a video together, work out a deal with Comcast where jurors have to download and watch this video in the privacy of their homes. And then tack on a little show-and-tell explaining to people that they should shower and maybe even change between the gym and the courthouse.
I kind of wanted to sit on a case. Mike had no such ambition. Mike wanted to get back to his job.
More numbers. 4345. 3334. 4536. 4223. 4223. James Wannamaker. 4223......4227.
Mike: "Boy, that job must stink."
Me: "Well, I understand she works the Bingo circuit, too."
That got about 5 people to turn, look at me, and start laughing.
Now, sitting there waiting is kind of like Juror Keno, with numbers all around you falling, but your own still uncalled.
4111. 5337. 5483. and, 5839.
Mike: "Damn. I mean, 'Here'."
Me: "Bummer. Kind of like getting shot the morning of 11/11/1918."
Then the same thing happened to me, and I think people were a little disappointed when I answered "here," rather than "Bingo!"
The selection itself was straightforward. They brought in 25 of us, sat 14 of us in the Box, and then we became the Default Jury. Nobody managed to disqualify himself despite some pretty strenuous efforts. Most people weren't going to outright lie about their own objectivity, after all.
So it's supposed to make me feel better being a pre-emptory dismissal? I know everyone who gets tossed thinks, "they were just worried I was too smart," but in this case, I think they were just worried about how I saw the case. The plaintiff's attorney spent a lot of time asking us about what type of information we'd want to know. This was his way of finding out if we were Fairness People, Justice People, or Law People. I was doomed the moment I came off as a Law Person.
Ah well, at least I have the rest of the week free.
I'm on the way back to Denver from Atlanta, after helping out my sister a little with the kids as she goes through a...procedure. She'll be fine, God willing; it's mostly preventative and borderline at that. But better safe that sorry, and in this case, that could be very sorry if wrong.
So here I am, sitting in the Atlanta airport, having navigated both United's check-in process and the security check, being subjected to CNN. Now, I was a little busy here, but I did have time to notice the report of a wildfire down south back home. I've been through Aguilar. Nice little town, and there's a gorgeous back-road that starts there.
Too bad they live in the mountains, which have been so dry. One of the risks of not living in the big city, which is insulated from things like that.
So, when I was up in the mountains for Thanksgiving, I got the car onto some snow. While I was looking for a good place to turn around and get off the snow, it got stuck. In the process of rocking it back and forth, all in low gear, of course, I overheated the engine, blowing off about half the antifreeze.
Now I had thought about just leaving the car there to tow, but it was Friday afternoon, snow was predicted for the weekend, and I was fairly sure that if I didn't get the thing out of there now, I wouldn't see it again until the retreating glacier disgorged it in May.
So, it was 30 miles in high gear and coasting back to Basalt, which apparently managed to fry the head gasket.
The old car was good to me, although it had almost 130K on it, and things were starting to break. But it's been a long, slow, frustrating funeral, and both it and I deserve better.
The last time I bought a new car, it was fairly simple. I had had three Ford Escorts in a row, and wanted to move up, to the Contour. (The Sebring convertible was out of my price range, and I wanted something new, not used.) I decided I wanted last year's model, but new, with a power option package, and a stick. I called a Ford dealership in the area, they located the one such car left between the Mississippi and the Continental Divide, and - lucky me! - it was on south Broadway. I looked up the invoice price of the car and options in Edmunds, added a couple of hundred dollars, and that was that.
This time, I had two possible models in mind, the Jeep Wrangler and the Subaru Outback. Very different cars, but both with good off-road capability and each with certain advantages. Thus far, I've test-driven 7 cars at 5 different dealerships, with one more left to go. Since used cars are on the menu this time, I've spent more time on the Net doing research than I thought humanly possible.
While some of the dealerships seem staffed by normal people, others display that schizophrenia which the manager and the salesman blame on each other. I have been invited down to take a long test-drive, only to be told that they wanted to run credit first. I have been quoted a number, only to be told that it was just an example. I've had a Nissan dealer tell me that he had no way of finding out the sale date of the Jeep he wanted to sell me. (Hey, bud, ever heard of CarFax?) A couple of dealerships have treated me well, showing me their invoices, and another let me take a Wrangler home overnight. But I gotta tell you, it's a real mixed bag.
I'm finally down to three cars, and if I don't hear back from the owner of that last one, I'm down to two.
I cannot tell you how happy I will be when this is over.
Jared's not the only one working out. For the last month+, I've been downstairs each morning on the stationary bike. I figure if the bike only needs one tire, I don't need any, and I'm fixin' to get rid of mine. Starting at 20 minutes each morning, I'm adding 5 minutes each week, so this week, I've been riding for 40 minutes a day. The goal is to get up to an hour a day.
So far, the results have been less-than-spectacular; I'm down about four pounds, but that'll speed up as I spend more time burning fat. Last fall, a year ago, I did the same routine, and managed to drop about 20 pounds before some mysterious but persistent stomach-and-flu thing put an end to my routine. But having lost the weight before, I'm pretty confident I can do it again.
Having the bike downstairs is very convenient, and probably cuts the time investment down by 30 minutes, which can be better-spent pedaling. But it's also pretty darn boring, and morning AM radio in this town is also pretty terrible. Laura Ingraham doesn't even know how to be decent to callers who agree with her; those who disagree average about four words. Local sportstalk is consistent with what I know about it elsewhere - it exists to fire coaches and players. Air America has some entertainment value, until you realize that the people calling in probably believe what they're saying, at which point I start looking around to see what it would take to turn the basement into a survival area.
The best answer is probably Teaching Company classical music or history lectures, which demand just the right level of engagement. I've got the American Literature series, but to get anything at all out of those, you need to read the books, and the point here is to make use of down time, not to let it colonize the rest of my day, so for the moment, it looks like I'll be ordering another set.
When I was a kid in Fairfax County, Virginia, just outside of DC, we used to joke about snow days. In February of 1978, we got something like 3 feet of snow, and it shut the schools down for a week. The county was clearly unprepared for this sort of thing, although at the time, we all figured that it was the start of the long-heralded Next Ice Age. From then on, school officials were so spooked they would cancel school or shorten the day on the flimsiest of pretexts, sometimes even on the prediction of snow.
That was then. In today's Wall Street Journal, Susan Cass writes:
What's the deal with snow days in the South? As a fairly new Virginian, moving here last year from Boston, I have been amazed at the locals' reaction to small amounts of snow.
On Friday, our 8-year-old daughter Daniella came bounding into our room at 6:30 a.m., announcing that it was snowing and asking if school was canceled. A quick look out the window revealed about two inches of snow on the ground, with light flurries in the air, so I quickly dashed her hopes. Nice try, I said, but you're going to school. Silly me! When I checked the Web site, I was shocked. The county had closed all the schools for the day. I wondered if maybe they knew something I didn't about a looming blizzard, but as the sun rose on a glorious, cool day, and the snow started melting, I was left with the question: This is a snow day?
A few days earlier, the county had delayed school for two hours because it was too cold for the kids to stand at the bus stop. It was around 30 degrees. Above zero. In December.
Not that this was the reason, but what I didn't know at age 11 was the fear that some newly-minted bureaucrat, from, say, Warren, Ohio, to pick a place at random, who couldn't drive a snowmobile on a snowpack, would find himself taking a turn a little too fast and plow into the side of a bus. DC traffic is a perfect metaphor for the local monopoly. Local drivers - mostly immigrants, really - do just fine as long as conditions are benign. Then, even before the first flakes hit, their senses desert them. Drivers who've never seen a turn signal before in their lives panic at the first sight of yellow, and the city descends into chaos and gridlock. One local radio station used to run fake ads for stores called "Bread, Milk, and Toilet Paper," which were only open when snow was predicted.
I don't normally blog about the weather, for the same reason I don't blog about the traffic. I chose to live here, and both of them are a vast improvement over DC, whence I came. But still...
Apparently, the producers of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe have arranged, as part of an "Always Winter, Never Hannukah" ad campaign, to turn Colorado into a meat locker. As I write this, it's minus, as in "not plus," three degrees outside. The garage has morphed from a convenient refrigerator into a walk-in freezer, which, if I were a butcher, would shorten my commute considerably, but as it is, it's just turning the olive oil into a paste.
The only good thing about it is that the wind has died down. For some reason, the world-class urban planners out here put a small, general aviation airport opposite a gap in the foothills. The same people who invented carb heat to counter the Venturi Effect when it comes to icing engines apparently forgot to tell the civil engineers, and the resulting 90 MPH gusts ripped a small plane out of its tie-down.
The week before that, the clouds that had been hovering, Mordor-like, over the mountains, finally broke loose and gave us a few inches of snow, which wouldn't normally be a big deal, because it would have melted by now. In this case, the winds piled it up and the cold have kept it around as a reminder of how nice global warming can be.
Though as compared to fires, landslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and stampeding buffalo, it's pretty mild stuff. And hey, it's a dry cold.
You know, if you're going to make a movie about the Pope's life, even if it's a cheap, cliche-ridden, movie-of-the-week, you should at least try to get someone to play the Pope who looks like the Pope.
Why the French? Well, because it's Mark Steyn in the Western Standard, his replacement Canadian gig after the National Post got de-Blacked. Since it's the Western Standard, I suppose I should have used Ukranian rather than French, but Babelfish doesn't go there, and in any case, it's the Quebeckers that are still running the joint.
It's sobering reading. Since 9/11 and the European slide into Islamicism, Steyn has become the leading columnist on political demography, to the point where, if he continues at this rate, by 2010, 78.3% of his columns will be on this subject. This column discusses how demographic trends may lead Canada (and by implication Japan and Europe, and then, by legal logic the US) to embrace some technology that we may end up wishing we hadn't:
So what's the next big thing that's likely to sneak up on us quietly and incrementally? After creeping sharia, I'd bet on creeping creepiness--the sly elisions on humanity's path to a post-human future. Joel Garreau has just written a fascinating book on the subject called Radical Evolution--about the combined effects of the so-called GRIN technologies: genetics, robotics, information systems and nanotechnology. Thus, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Virginia is currently working on ways to create "better humans"--soldiers who can communicate with each other simply by thought and can regrow damaged body parts.
If you're thinking, "Oh, for God's sake. I've got this month's phone bill to pay and Steyn's boring on about some stuff that's gonna kick in circa 2100," well, not so fast--or, rather, not so slow. As the headline on a National Geographic interview with the author put it, "How Weird? How Soon?" "We're talking about the next 10 or 20 years," says Garreau. "This is going to happen on our watch." DARPA's previous far-fetched ideas include the Arpanet--now known as the Internet--and the Predator, the unmanned drone that tracked and killed a group of al Qaeda bigwigs driving their SUV through the Yemen desert.
Yet it seems to me transformative innovation is not so much technological as social. For example, we have the technology to go to the moon, but nobody wants to, so the space program languishes. By contrast, packaged as part of the broader social context of feminism, the sexual revolution and the consequent upending of traditional perspectives on human reproduction, the gruesome innovation of partial-birth abortion (i.e., infanticide) slid smoothly down the slipway and into our lives. That same route will make GRIN technology part of our world in the next 10 years.
By concentrating on DARPA's spectacular successes rather than their more ignominious - and less well-known - failures, Steyn is moving into more speculative territory than he usually occupies. Still, the consequences of this technology are not even remotely understood, and the appropriate place for any conservative is standing athwart history, yelling "Stop!"
EUGENE, Ore. - A construction workers' tradition of cooking a turkey for an early Thanksgiving celebration went awry when the oil in their deep fryer caught fire, burning the house they had just finished building.
So, I'm having dinner with a number of young couples on Friday night, and they start discussing how they met, moved out to Denver, etc. One of the wives mentions that one day, she saw her husband coming upstairs with a bag full of shredded paper.
"What's that?" she asks.
"Oh, nothing, just the files I kept on the girls I went out with."
Another guest: "Let me guess. You're a value investor."
According to the Rocky Mountain News, more and more Westerners think of wildlife as "family." Right. Except family don't normally think of each other as dinner.
Look, my dog is family, a companion. That bobcat shadowing me to make sure I don't get too close to her real family, not so much. CSU professor Mike Manfredo, who seems to be a last bastion of common sense in academia, is quoted extensively:
CSU professor Mike Manfredo, who headed the study, said 50 years ago when there were a higher number of people living in rural areas, the majority probably believed in hunting wild animals.
But as more people moved into the state, often from large U.S. cities, the number holding those beliefs began to change.
Television shows that foster concern and even familiarity with wildlife by those who may never go into the country contribute to the trend, Manfredo said.
The study even found some people who said if there was an accident involving a human and an animal, they would help the animal first.
The reason for the change in attitude, Manfredo said, is the people moving into western states come from highly urbanized areas, usually with higher personal incomes, and have attitudes more opposed to the traditional values of hunting and fishing.
This kind of romanticizing of wildlife is what leads to biopics like these. That these "activists" were probably dumber than the average bear doesn't seem to have diminished peoples' sympathy for them. This wasn't "tragic," except maybe as an indictment of their local public education system.
But it's not just that they've been inculcated with post-modern a-dog-is-a-boy-is-a-fish-is-a-mosquito attitudes. It's also the hair- and consciousness-raising experience of running into an animal without a plexiglass wall or a chain-link fence to help you out. People who have to deal with real bears on a regular basis tend to take a somewhat dimmer view. And in places where the bears have figured out that we're as scared of them as they are of us, it's starting to get testy again.
Just for fun, here's the data from the survey (not given online), with the remainder taking either a live-and-let-kill approach, or just not caring:
And just for fun, I charted the difference between the bubbas and the pooh-bears against the state-by-state margin for Bush vs. Kerry:
There's an old joke that goes like this. The local government of Alberta, or Montana, or someplace where easterners go to indulge their fantasies, issues a bulletin. They advise backcountry hikers to wear bear bells to warn bears that they're coming, and to carry pepper spray for any bears that don't take the hint. They also suggest that you can tell black bears and grizzly bears apart by looking at their droppings. Black bear droppings are small and have seeds in them. Grizzly bear droppings have bells and smell like pepper.
These results shouldn't surprise anyone, especially someone who know what a pheasant hunt looks like, and that you don't crawl around on your belly to hunt deer. But it does seem to suggest a connection between understanding reality and having to deal with it on occasion.
Blogging today will be light to non-existent, as I will be attending an LPR meeting today, at a remote location where wifi is either a distant dream or a lurking nightmare, depending on your point of view.
In the meantime, Charles Krauthammer shows that, no matter how brilliant a psychiatrist he is, and no matter how incisive he is about the Middle East, he and his keyboard shouldn't be allowed anywhere near economic issues.
In promoting his idea for a (basically unenforceable) $3 floor for the pump price of gasoline, he claims
It makes infinitely more sense to reduce consumption, drive the world price down and let the premium we force ourselves to pay at the pump (which begins the conservation cycle) go to the U.S. Treasury. If the price drops to $2, plow that $1 tax right back into the American economy by immediately reducing, say, Social Security or income taxes.
The beauty of a tax that keeps gasoline at $3 is that it obviates the waste and folly of an army of bureaucrats telling auto companies what cars in which fleets need to meet what arbitrary standards of fuel efficiency. Abolish all the regulations and let the market decide. Consumers are not stupid. Within weeks of Hurricane Katrina, SUV sales were already in decline and hybrids were flying off the lots.
As though this Congress, or any Congress, would use extra revenue to reduce other taxes. As though the price of gas doesn't seep into every other item we buy. As though the very last sentence, the part about consumers not being stupid. doesn't proves that you could get rid of the CAFE-bureaucracy right now, without any new tax.
And then, there's the irony (already noted), in pushing for a mandated price in order to "let the market decide."
Have a nice weekend. Go for a drive someplace. See you Sunday.
Come to think of it, this would be an auspicious time to think of starting over. I'm starting (or trying to start) a new career. Fall is traditionally when school starts (although I'm past that - heh). And Fall is when the trees are doing the hard work anyway, getting ready for Spring. If Elul and Tishrei aren't about stating over, they're not about anything. On the 13th, just after the Blog Went Dark, I turned 39, and while I plan to follow Jack Benny's example of staying there, the last year before 40 is also a good time to start over.
See what happens when you try to improve things? In trying to upgrade from the buggy Berkeley database to MySQL, and from the old MT 2.64, which was getting increasingly difficult to find replacement parts for, I managed to break the system entirely. So now, in addition to looking for work full time, working full time, and trying to study for the CFA part time, not to mention obligations to family, friends, community, and dog, I've got this.
So, over the next few days, I'll be re-creating the blog layouts and designs, translating Cold Fusion into PHP and HTML, and updating links all over the place.
It still doesn't look too good right now, although the archives are available at the same old URLs.