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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?

3rd October 2013

5:27am: Early shutdown thoughts, Tea Party
* I am among the ~1.2 million who have been laid off during the federal shutdown. Have been keeping busy with a lot of tasks around the house which have been laying around for a while, but this is still pretty unpleasant. I think Allahpundit may be right, the current federal shutdown could well last up until the debt ceiling deadline on October 17th is reached. That deadline is too close for it not to have a big influence on any negotiations that may happen, so I expect they'll try to wrap it all up into one package whenever Congress decides to actually try and hash out a deal. That will take time.

* One thing people seem to miss about the Tea Party: they're neither stupid nor evil nor irrational, they just have a different set of priorities. There's a very strong libertarian streak in the TP; one of their mottos could well be "the government governs best that governs least." Their members believe that the government is far too big - see the continuing deficits and increasing debt - and that government is too overreaching into citizens' lives, as reflected by the TP's adoption of the Gadsden 'don't tread on me' Flag as their unofficial banner. If you look at it though this lens, their actions make perfect sense: TP members of Congress rarely introduce legislation, nor have interest in making government function, because why would you want something that you see as a malevolent force operating at all?

* Seeing comments like "The People will maintain the monuments, we don't need the National Park Service" doesn't take into account how much traffic places like Rushmore, the DC mall monuments, etc. actually get. When you have thousands upon thousands of folks going through a place, things happen just because people are people: some folks will have upset stomachs and vomit on the floor, others will think its a good idea to spraypaint their slogans or initials for the world to see (or just spread green paint on the monuments for whatever reason). So, noble talk, but it understates just how hard and unpleasant parts of the NPS's job are: do you really want to rely on citizens voluntarily cleaning up someone else's kid's upchuck when they've eaten a hot dog they don't like? Or going to the rescue when some hikers decide to climb Mount Hood with bad weather coming in, or save some tourists when it seems like a good idea to go up and pet that nice bear cub in Yellowstone? An experiment in publicly-maintained monuments was tried with Grant's Tomb, with poor results.

* Other complaints about websites being taken down, as well as about the outdoor monuments being closed, and so on, gets to the heart of the issue: people want all the services, but don't want to pay for them, which is a problem not just limited to the government (online newspapers, software piracy, and so on.) Websites, outdoor monuments, etc. all look like they are "free," but they have associated costs to maintain that just aren't as visible, so its just assumed they don't exist. Someone has to pay to buy the servers, pay the IT people to keep it running and free from hackers and viruses, and so on. And feeding that attitude of getting something for nothing is one reason why the debt has grown to the point it has, because nobody wants to vote for a leader who tells you "no, you can't have that."

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.

3rd March 2012

8:27am: Robot gadgets review
Last year we invested in a couple of different robots to help with the housework. Thought it might be useful to folks to put up a review of our experiences with each.


This is the Neato XV-11 robotic vacuum cleaner, which retails for around $400 at Amazon. There is a small but fairly powerful vacuum in its front, and the robot moves around while the vacuum sweeps up dirt as it moves. It navigates a room using a small laser that rotates rapidly in the "turret" in the back, using the input it gets to avoid objects. It does a good job of this, and rarely bumps into our furniture. You can also block off areas using magnetic strips, included with the product. Dust and dirt is collected in a bin in the front of the robot, which should be emptied after each use. We normally get a full bin of cat hair, dust, etc. with each run, and it takes a little under an hour to do four rooms. There's an option to have the robot run remotely on a set schedule, but I prefer to be here when I do run it, as occasionally it will run into an obstacle it needs some help getting around - not often, but sometimes. The robot will return to its base station automatically to recharge, and recent software upgrades have noticeably improved its ability to remember its previous path and complete this successfully. One bonus is that the robot can get under beds and furniture which we were vacuuming infrequently with the manual vacuum. The flipside to being good at avoiding furniture is that every few months you will need to manually vacuum in edges and corners, since the collision avoidance software and design doesn't allow the robot to clean those very well.
One downside: we had to return our first model because of a continuing problem with "RPS errors". This is basically a problem with dust getting into the turret sensors . It can be prevented by blowing the turret with compressed air before each use, and the model we received from Neato in exchange has rarely had this problem, so they seem to have solved or at least limited the issue. A more popular robot vacuum is the Roomba in its various models, but I chose not to go with that after reading many reviews that all Roombas models had problems with the front brushes (there to push dirt into the vacuum) regularly snapping off and having to be replaced.



This is the Mint 4200 series robot cleaner, which retails for $200 at Amazon. We use this for cleaning our house's hardwood and kitchen floors. You place either a "dry" or "damp" cloth shammy on to the front of the robot; both come with the product, or you can use Swiffer sheets also. It navigates by exchanging information with a base unit which projects an invisible beam up on to the ceiling of whatever room is being cleaned. The robot builds a "map" of the room by moving around until it bumps into something, which it then stores and knows not to try moving into that space again. This actually works better than it sounds, and the system is fairly efficient at this. Normally every time we run the Mint on our floors, it finishes after about an hour with a lot of dirt and pet hair collected. The shammies can be cleaned in with the normal laundry, though I recommend brushing off the major dirt before putting it in with the rest of the wash. As with the Neato, a good function is that it gets under furniture and into spaces which we normally wouldn't remember to clean regularly.

In all, we're quite happy with both. There's a learning curve to each, but they've both saved a lot of time and have cut down on the amount of weekly housekeeping we have to do. In both cases I can now set up each robot, push "start", and simply let it run mostly without assistance, and after about an hour the cleaning is done. That's about all one could ask for from a robotic assistant. Oh, and they're fairly neat to watch as they roll around cleaning and going around anything that gets in their way. There's also robots available for lawn mowing, but the price (over $1,500) is prohibitive right now. The makers of the Roomba also have models for floor cleaning, pool cleaning, and gutter cleaning. As with anything, caveat emptor: read the reviews on Amazon,com and elsewhere before purchasing.

8:00am: Pictures from Orlando/WDW trip



Uploaded photos from our Orlando/Walt Disney World trip last month to my flickr account.

12th September 2011

8:31pm: Anniversaries...
I found this post about the tenth anniversary of 9/11 deeply moving. This is the last major anniversary of 9/11 where it is living memory for almost everyone marking it. In fifteen years, when the twenty-fifth anniversary occurs, there will be a whole generation for whom 9/11 will be something that happened to their parents, not them, just as Pearl Harbor has drifted from something people lived through to being a date in history. In that sense, as Allahpundit says, this was the last anniversary which was truly "ours" as a people all present at a point in time which divided everything into "before" and "after."

And in a very real sense, we do walk hand in hand through history with the others of our generation, and that can be a comforting thought. We have common frames of reference. No one today can speak about "Nine-eleven" or "Ground Zero" and have to explain what she means, but there will come a day when that does happen, just like "December seventh" doesn't automatically register with many folks today the way it would have with the World War II generation. Such is the way of the world.

Anyway, I got to thinking about what anniversary dates in history will be coming up in our lifetimes, and here's the list I came up with, below the cut:
Read moreCollapse )
According to my estimated life expectancy, I've got a fairly decent shot at living into the 2050s. Should be exciting to see many of these.
Are there any I'm missing?

30th August 2011

9:46pm: 9/11: The Falling Man

6th August 2011

8:54pm: Gardening update



Just to give a look at what our vegetable garden looks like today. Compare with the June 6th post below (with pictures from early May). We're getting lots of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers off this, plus a few green peppers here and there, and hopefully it will produce some squash and cucumbers at some point (had some trouble with rabbits and groundhogs, which apparently both like to eat gourd plants, so I had to enclose them in wire and netting). Our concord grapes are starting to turn color to purple, but they are supposed to be actually ripe in early Autumn.
8:08am: fwd: Life's Gonna Suck When You Grow Up...
via a since-deleted comment thread at girlgeniuscomic...

16th July 2011

7:32pm: from Mark Bowden's book "Blackhawk Down"
I was rereading Bowden's "Blackhawk Down" this week, and this passage seems as relevant today as it was back then, for a lot of different places: Libya, Palestine/Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, etc.:
"(Somalia) was a watershed," said one State Department official, "The idea used to be that terrible countries were terrible because good, decent, innocent people were being oppressed by evil, thuggish leaders. Somalia changed that. Here you have a country where just about everybody is caught up in hatred and fighting. You stop an old lady on the street and ask her if she wants peace, and she’ll say, yes, of course, I pray for it daily. All the things you’d expect her to say. Then ask her if she would be willing for her clan to share power with another in order to have that peace, and she’ll say, 'With those murderers and thieves? I’d die first.' People in these countries - Bosnia is a more recent example - don’t want peace. They want victory. They want power. Men, women, old and young. Somalia was the experience that taught us that people in these places bear much of the responsibility for things being the way they are. The hatred and the killing continues because they want it to. Or because they don’t want peace enough to stop it." (pg 334-335)
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