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10th August 2014

7:31pm: Guardians of the Galaxy
We saw "Guardians of the Galaxy" today. Great fun - we both really enjoyed the humor as well as the music (mix tapes!). I didn't read much of the GoG comic as a kid - the only character I was acquainted with was Drax the Destroyer, and that from his appearances in "The Avengers." The Kree I remember from "Captain Marvel." I find it interesting that the Skrull haven't appeared in any Marvel movie yet (apparently for legal reasons) considering what a catalyst the ongoing Kree-Skrull war was in so many Marvel storylines. Bonus: the trailer for the next Hobbit film is in the previews.

27th July 2014

5:20pm: Books I'm currently reading
"The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" (Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan, 1992) - I'm only a little ways through Chapter 1 so far, but I can tell this could be a transformative book. I've been having troubles with doing the work in my writing, and these have been growing for a long time. "The Artist's Way" is about unblocking the creative process, and while the "spiritual" part in the title might be offputting for some people, the author explains why that part is there but in a way that most people can probably work with. For me, I can only go through at most a half-chapter at a time before setting it down for the day, which is usually a sign that I'm being challenged and am starting to fight it and gettting defensive. When I sense that, I just set it aside and let my subconscious process the ideas for a while, then come back to it again. Thanks to Liralen for the suggestion to try this book.

"Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" (Peggy Noonan, 1994) - This is a reread for me, I think I first read it a few years after it came out. Noonan came to prominence as a speechwriter for the Reagan White House; this book deals mainly with the period around the '92 election when G.H.W. Bush was running for reelection against Bill Clinton. Its interesting from a retrospective stance, in that the author makes a fair number of observations as to why Bush's campaign was headed towards failure, what kind of president Clinton would be, and so on, but it is told largely in stories and talks between other people and herself rather than as bare prose, which makes it much easier to read. To me, there's also a lot of wisdom in what Noonan writes here, and some of that may have to do with our sharing similar backgrounds of coming from traditionally Catholic households, going through the standard Catholic education system (albeit 20 years apart), and so on. While she was living in New York City at the time, she was also spending a lot of her time commuting down to DC, and her observations about the life here are also interesting to me after having lived in the general DC area for the past 8 years now. Noonan was also in the midst of a spiritual reconsideration during the period she writes about, which I also find easily relatable: doing the math, she was age 43 when the book came out, and I'm age 44 now, so its not surprising I'm finding myself nodding and drawing a number of parallels to many things she mentions that I wasn't doing to nearly the same extent when I read it in my 20s. I hope some of her later works have a similar personal/observational touch to them, but I haven't had a chance to explore them yet.

"Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision" (Roberta Wohlstetter, 1962) - I'm only just into Chapter 1 in this one as well, but I already have a sense of "the scales falling from my eyes." This book is universally regarded as the definitive analysis of the intelligence failures that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In some ways its unbelievable, yet at the same time entirely believable, that the work of pulling together all the different sources of material to put together a coherent picture of 'who knew what, when did they know it, and how did it all fit together?' was done not by the Navy, but by an analyst at the RAND corporation. As a study of military history, its interesting; as a study of human nature, its deeply fascinating. There was an immensely complex lattice of 'this person knew this piece of information, but because they were in position A reporting from country B with perspective C, this other person in position X in country Y with perspective Z who could have acted on it wasn't disposed to think it that important.' And so catastrophes happen.

21st July 2014

9:36pm: Super Bowl XV - a retrospective
crossposted from http://www.wingheads.com/index.php?showtopic=75340

For a slow week before camp opens, found this on YouTube, the highlights of Super Bowl XV:
Read more...Collapse )
In any case, the 1980 team will always be "my" team, probably to the end of my days. Coach Dick Vermeil remained a positive role model for me during the rest of my time growing up, both as an example of the value of hard work and preparation, and then as an example of how a lack of balance in one's life can lead to burnout.

6th July 2014

8:49pm: Tohno

29th June 2014

12:32pm: Motivation
Philosophy of motivation, from "Secret Society of Super Villains #1":

Also reflects the Lazarus Long quote about "Never appeal to a man’s “better nature.” He may not have one. Invoking his “self—interest” gives you more leverage."

26th June 2014

8:25pm: Oingo Boingo - Just Another Day


Lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/o/oingo+boingo/just+another+day_20102758.html

Trivia: OB's lead vocalist was Danny Elfman, now famous as the composer of such film scores as The Nightmare Before Christmas and the Simpsons theme.

29th April 2014

9:44pm: Newstopia intros

15th November 2013

7:54pm: Ever encounter a piece of art or song that you found particularly moving or meaningful, only to read an interview with the artist later where they said effectively "That piece of junk? Yeah, big mistake, never going to do that again!" or "It was *meant* to be a joke (and the fans didn't get it)." Did knowing that its creator regards it as garbage affect how you viewed it going forward?

6/14 - ...and there's actually a trope for this: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OldShame

12th July 2013

6:22pm: RSS feeds for Twitter
Twitter finally shut down their support for RSS feeds (the things readers like Feedly use) last month. This is a workaround:
http://www.labnol.org/internet/twitter-rss-feeds/27931/

23rd December 2012

7:26am: Putting mass shooting deaths in perspective
According to the CDC, there are ~2.5 million deaths in the U.S. annually. In 2012, 151 of those deaths were due to mass shooters, or 0.00006% of all deaths or 0.009% of all homicides. So this rates as a major issue requiring large-scale deployment of resources and training...why again, exactly? The odds of being killed by lightning are about the same as that of falling victim to a mass shooter, yet we aren't talking about mass deployment of lightning rods across the nation.

14th November 2012

3:24pm: RSS feeds for Twitter
If you read Twitter feeds using an RSS reader like Google Reader, this is some useful information to know about. My regular searches using Twitter's RSS feed stopped picking up new posts - not sure why - but using the format "http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=from%3A_inserttwitteruseridhere_" seems to work OK for getting the reader to pick up new Twitter material.

Also see:
http://sociable.co/social-media/twitter-removes-all-search-rss-links-from-its-site-now-users-must-resort-to-hacks-to-get-feeds/

7th November 2012

6:29am: The day after


Funny how people talk about how they want compromise and results from their government, then reelect the most strident partisans (Bachmann, Grayson, Webster, Warren) and vote out moderates (Scott Brown). Gee, no wonder things don't get done. Fiscal cliff, here we come...

related:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/07/is-demography-destiny.html
(analysis of the "demography is undermining the GOP" argument)
http://www.volokh.com/2012/11/07/a-few-thoughts-about-the-election/
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/06/obama-will-probably-win-reasons-for-republicans-to-be-cheerful.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ej-dionne-obamas-victory-settles-a-bitter-argument/2012/11/07/00be6164-2892-11e2-96b6-8e6a7524553f_story.html
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/03/vote-the-bums-out-the-eight-worst-congressmen.html
(I note that six of the eight named Congresspersons in that last article won last night(only Richardson and Walsh lost).)

6th November 2012

7:38pm: via https://twitter.com/Popehat
Popehat ‏@Popehat
Just been shown some top-secret exit polls. Very disappointed. The victor is a guy who will continue the War on Drugs. He's a guy . . .
‏@Popehat
. . . who will continue to grow the security state unabated. He's a guy who offers only lip service to the constitution. He's a guy . . .
Popehat ‏@Popehat
. . . . whose economic plan is fanciful nonsense. You know who.

3rd September 2012

8:36pm: Making homemade grape jelly
Photos behind the cutCollapse )
This recipe was very helpful: http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/concord-grape-jam.html
8:09am: fwd: "Why I Chose A Gun"
"That is why I took up the gun - not to shoot, not to kill, not to destroy, but to stop those who would do evil, to protect the vulnerable, to defend democratic values, to stand up for the freedom we have to talk - about how we can make the world a better place."

via Michael Yon.

12th July 2012

9:24pm: Thoughts on Paterno/PSU/Sandusky (crossposted from Wingheads.com)
background:
http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/12/us/pennsylvania-penn-state-paterno/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

http://www.wingheads.com/index.php?showtopic=68529&st=30&gopid=234978&#entry234978
As an alumni who never knew anything but Paterno as PSU's head coach, and by the time I was there (early '90s) the mythology of JoePa was already well entrenched, I'm still processing exactly what this means retrospectively. I suspect it's going to be one of those things that looks contradictory at first - JoePa the forger of young men's character, demanding class and education as well as football, vs. JoePa who participated in covering up ongoing child abuse - but actually makes a kind of sense:

I can believe that Paterno, half not wanting to believe what he was being told by multiple sources, sensed a threat in Sandusky's activities to the thing he loved most - the football program - and to all the good he thought he was doing with it, and so wanted that threat to go away as quickly and quietly as possible so that the program wasn't tarnished. That was the priority, as near as I can tell: preserve the program at all costs, justified in the name of everything Paterno believed he was accomplishing. And it became something straight out of a Greek tragedy - by totally losing perspective on what was more important, by choosing to cover up rather than confronting a terrible thing, everything Paterno did and worked for is now tarnished with a black brush of evil.

Perspective. If permanently dissolving the PSU football program, or even all college football, or even all football, could prevent even one more boy from having to go through the torture that Sandusky's victims went through, would that be worth it? How about if doing that prevented what happened to *all* the victims since '98? Isn't there a point where you have to say, no, football just isn't that important. And I think that point is way, way short of the line where someone, anyone, ends up scarred for life.

For Paterno, the program was his life, his legacy. I suspect a lot of coaches have this problem - Lombardi, George Allen, Vermeil before his burnout. This skewed his sense of right and wrong, and those kids paid the price. For myself, I did buy into the JoePa persona, even when I was probably old enough to know better, to know that everybody is a mix of good and bad, and of contradictions. Its something I think all PSU fans will have to confront eventually about this: did we help build up JoePa and the program to the point that it became this larger-than-life thing that a lot of people at Penn State, including Paterno, thought was more important to keep safe, at any price, than some nameless (to them), faceless (to them), kids' lives?

This is hardly something limited to Penn State - if you've been in a major college football stadium filled to capacity on a Saturday, you know that its a huge deal to a huge number of people. The question becomes, at what price? If not a child's innocence, is there still a price worth paying to preserve the program, or to make that program a winner? Payola? Recruiting violations? Injury pools to take out another team's best players? And at what point do you just have to say "no, this is nuts, its still just football, just a game, doing this is wrong." And if there's a long history of not being able to make the right decisions on that, at what point do you just have to say the whole thing needs to be scrapped, to start over or just to go away forver, because the price is too high? That is basically one of the objectives of the NCAA death penalty, after all: you force the whole thing to reset by denying any football for a period of time.

Anyway, that's where I am with this now.

7th July 2012

4:26pm: Gardening update

Our vegetable garden as of today. The tomatoes are loving all the heat we're having. Had to cut the wire cages off the zucchini and cucumber plants because they were constricting their growth.

13th May 2012

3:52pm: fwd: A Future Without Key Social and Economic Statistics for the Country
On Thursday the House voted to eliminate the American Community Survey that the Census conducts every year. Because of its size - its the largest survey conducted in the U.S, and probably the world - its the primary source of local, state, and national data used by business, government, and scientists to study the nation.

http://directorsblog.blogs.census.gov/2012/05/11/a-future-without-key-social-and-economic-statistics-for-the-country/

Even otherwise-hawkish-on-cutting think tanks like Cato and the Heritage Foundation have come out and said this is a very bad idea. I've complained about the dumb decisions that countries like Canada and Argentina have made in regards to statistical information, and this is right along those lines. There's a long way to go - it'd still have to pass the Senate and probably wouldn't pass a veto from POTUS - but that it passed the House at all is alarming. I've written a letter to a Congressman who I've contributed to in the past, something I rarely do, so important do I consider this issue. Simply, if this goes through, it will blind us to what's happening at the local level in terms of demographics, economics, and social trends.

6th April 2012

8:39am: Abide With Me (post for Good Friday)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abide_with_Me
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

25th March 2012

10:11pm: Pretzel bread
Fresh from our breadmaker and oven:

18th March 2012

1:18pm: 1940 Census records to be released April 2nd

The 1940 census records should be available online via ancestry.com for free. I've also heard that the National Archives will have a similar arrangement, but haven't found confirmation of that yet.
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