Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Living on the Grid

Worried that everyone is tracking all your personal information? Afraid to sign up for frequent buyer cards because they'll start giving you checkout coupons for Super Cheezy Poofs and Maxxim magazine? Giving false phone numbers to websites to avoid "targeted offers" to enlarge parts you don't have?

This is your future: Ordering Pizza in 2010

That 70s show

We've succumbed. We searched all over and do not have a fondue pot and so we must get one. I don't ever remember having fondue at home when I was a kid -- but then again, we had Jenna. Letting her loose with sharp forks and boiling oil would not be a good idea (at her wedding, we dubbed her 'Walks-with-Fire' because of concerns she'd light the altercloth on fire while doing the unity candle thing. Graceful and adept, she is not. She's a worse klutz than I am). We tended to avoid anything that might actually combust and traditional fondue is oil-based. Boiling oil and weapons, not a good combination in our household.

The adorable husband, though, had a raclette maker (not quite fondue, but with melted cheese and flames) at their house that actually involved having to rewire a kitchen outlet and basically broiled potatoes and cheese at the table. They, obviously, did not have a Jenna!

Fondue is actually making a comeback, but I have to admit that when I think of it, it involves a Harvest Gold Rival fondue pot (perhaps Avocado, if you were trying for something different) and gold shag carpet. I can't help it. It's just so...so... 70s.

According to The Food Network, there are some weird fondue traditions, including:
If a woman drops her cube of bread or meat off her fondue fork and into the pot, she must kiss all the men at the table.

If a man drops food off his fork into the pot, he must supply another bottle of wine for the table.

According to tradition, you must drink wine, not cold water, with fondue.

This all sounds like a weird 70s rave party, if you ask me. Drink a lot of wine, shed that polyester print jacket, and party down. But, as I said, it's gaining popularity again -- because it's pretty dang good.

There's a lovely restaurant near us (The Melting Pot) that does fondue, and the New Years Feast is fondue...and I'm craving the ability to do lovely Emmenthaler/Gruyer cheese fondue at home. And chocolate. Don't forget the chocolate. Yum!
[note: I snagged the image above from an auction page, and I did not hear back from the owner of the page. If this is your pic - please drop me a note]

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Robots are Strong

An SNL parody ad that nearly made me pee myself. I wonder how many times Sam Waterson had to go through this before he sounded so solemn and sincere without cracking up?

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Ok, this really made me giggle. A controversial cleric in Cairo (usually a fairly liberal Muslim country) has delivered the edict that nudity during sex is taboo. Married couples engaging in sex whilst completely unclothes actually annul their marriage.

India has banned miniskirts, among other things. This really made me laugh, and anyone who has seen music videos from India will note that it's not being followed at all.

No one is actually paying a whole lot of attention to these bizarre fatwas (any more than they paid to Pat Robertson when he said we should assasinate foreign leaders or that god struck down Ariel Sharon). But still -- what did this guy think was going to happen? Four milion couples in Cairo are going to suddenly wear body-stockings to bed? Does it count if the lights are out and the room is completely dark? What if only one person is unclothed?

This is ridiculous on a couple of levels:
1. How do they intend to enforce this fatwa against nakedness?
2. People have been having sex naked since long before religion was involved. Why has this become an issue now? How does seeing body parts have anything do to with marriage?
3. There is no command in the Koran or in any teaching that I can find that requires modesty of this sort in the home. What exactly did they extrapolate this rule from?

Or is it just a bunch of guys sitting around the table seeing who can be stricter than the other one, more demanding and thus more religious than the rest? Most of these edicts -- whether from imams or christian evangelists -- seem to be based on control and power,not any particular basis in faith.

It's like Christmas!

I spent a few hours today in the basement -- our plan is to eventually finish the basement with a home theater -- going through the pile of boxes. Many of them are from our original move to Colorado from Georgia in 1992 and spent twelve years in the attic of the old house. Most of my books moved in boxes and never got unpacked; we simply had no room for most of them. Moving into the new house meant unpacking boxes and boxes of books and loading them into the new bookshelves and seemingly limitless space of the new house (which is now pretty well crammed with books). It was like opening present on Xmas morning. I got to read through books that I haven' t seen in a decade: Chaucer (in Middle English), was a particulary missed volume. I actually took a class in college to justify buying it.

Still, we left a dozen or so boxes of books in the basement after the move, since we had no space for them. One of my goals during the Great Off (besides watching every movie with Colin Farrell in it) is to go through the remaining books and see if I can part with any them.

I went through three boxes and ruthlessly culled out all the bad 1980s bodice rippers, horrible sci-fi, and other embarrasing book detritus. I think I kept a total of a dozen books from the whole lot -- kept the good sci-fi, first editions, boxed set of Narnia, the erotica, and a few Stephen King novels. It was actually pretty painless at the time.

Now, of course, I'm thinking that I should go through the "to go" boxes and see if I was hasty in discarding them. The Adorable husband is going to take them to the used book store to see if they are worth any credit. I can't do it myself.

Only ten more boxes to go. And three boxes of vinyl records. Does anyone even have a turntable anymore?

Eye Candy

Ok, I'll admit it. I've spent the first week of the Great Off watching (sometimes bad) movies that have lovely men in leather as the primary attraction. X-men, X-men 2, Riddick, American Outlaw, Mad Max, Knights Tale. Gladiator. I even watched Troy, which is a spectacularly bad movie (not to mention, a poor representation of the actual story!). I was never a fan of Brad Pitt, but he certainly is nice to watch. (And here I'll admit to browsing for a half-hour looking for a good picture to put in the blog).

Yes, I'm shallow.

Friday, January 27, 2006


I've been keeping track of the hoo-ha about domestic spying and frankly, the whole thing pisses me off. Gonzales on a tour trying to justify this, but the story keeps changing. The president keeps assuring us that is was perfectly legal and he had the right to wiretap American citizens without a warrant. Half the time the this is the argument. The rest of the time, Gonzales tells us,
"We would have told Congress or asked them to rewrite the law, but we didn't think we would get it."
Well, either you believe the president has the default ability to do this, or you believe congress should have been asked, but wouldn't have done it (so you didn't ask).

In April 2004 (and many other times) Bush has assured us many times that
"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires-a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
And again,
THE PRESIDENT: Let me -- that's a great question. A couple of things that are very important for you to understand about the Patriot Act. First of all, any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.
Here'a alonger list of assurances that a warrant is needed.

And then, just this thursday, he noted:
"We will not listen inside this country. It is a call from al Qaeda affiliates either from inside the country our, or outside the country in, but not domestically."
I know what the problem is. Bush doesn't understand the word "domestic". Or, at the very least, their arguments depend on what the definition of 'domestic' is. If you can't win with the accepted version, make up your own definition and apply that.

Inconsistent much?

I'm all for listening to every communication from anyone who may have contacts with terrorists. Fine. Just do it with a warrant, which is how the system is set up. Not getting a warrant is illegal and unconstitutional. Period.


No, I didn't get a new puppy. The Adorable Husband is mean.

However, I do get to go over and take care of the neighbor's puppy while they are at work. Both of them work at the hospital, and often work 12 hour days and -- being a 15 week old Golden Retreiver puppy -- he needs to go out more often than that. How fun!

I'm hoping we can introduce him to our beasties soon and he can stay over here during the day. Since I'm home for the duration, it works out great! Well, perhaps not -- the Adorable Husband is pretty sure that inrestricted Puppy Time will just increase the whinging for a new puppy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Day Two!

Day two of the Great Off. I think I'm past that weird, nagging anxiety that I've forgotten something, or missed something. It's the oddest sensation, like not remembering if you've turned off the stove or forgotten to sign your tax return.

Yesterday was a bunch of errands and it never quite sank in that I'm OFF. The most strenuous thing I did today was walk to the mailbox. Started a new xstitch chart and basically nested inthe corner of the couch with movies on all day. It makes the Adorable Husband twitchy to watch me stitch, but it really makes me rather calm. Of source, I spent hours on Sunday (during the football game) putting floss in bags and printing out labels for them. Yup. I'm strange.

The plan tomorrow involves going through at least one box of books in the basement and culling out the paperbacks that can go to the used book store. Not that I can take them -- I get sweaty palms just thinking about taking them . The Adorable Husband will have to do it. There are still a dozen or more big boxes of books inthe basement that haven't been opened since we moved to Colorado. They were in the attic for 12 years. It might take a while.

Georgetown Protest

As Alberto Gonzalez does the tour to try to explain why Bush didn't actually circumvent constitutional powers by spying on Americans without bothering to get a warrant, Georgetown students turned their backs on him. I don't think I've ever seen that before.

Pictures here
. And a better one here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Unscripted Questions

Bush is going to take unscripted questions, as announced by the white house.

What has me chuckling is the need for the administration to actually announce that he is going to take "unscripted questions". You'd think they'd be embarassed to even use the phrase , "unscripted questions", and admit that the previous ones were as well scripted as a television ad, but apparently not.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Gainfully Unemployed (sort of)

It's about ten to twelve, and I'm sitting at my desk having weird anxiety about not having to go to work tomorrow. Last night, I went through the normal (at least, recently) feeling of dread about Monday morning (it goes something like, "Hey, it's 10 o'clock...crap. Have to go to work tomorrow. Oh, no, wait! It's only saturday. I have all day tomorrow.")

But now, I am having that strange butterfly-in-the-stomach sensation about not having to go to work. I'm not sure that it will sink in for a few days that I really do have the time off and I don't have to think about a client or worry about the next meeting or anything else. I can't tell if it's guilt that I'm really taking all this time off, or some rebound anxiety that I can do what I want to tomorrow. That's such a novelty -- not having anythign that I have to do, not even get up at a specific time -- that I"m not sure how I feel about it. It feels right queer, I tell you.

Headed out to the local cross-stitch store to pick up the floss to start a new project and found that it has CLOSED. Gone, with a for-rent sign in the window. I realized that it had been nearly a year since I had even gone there, and felt as if I had missed out on the last 12 months of my life. I love to stitch, and I haven't done it for more than a few hours in the last year. So now I'm panicking about getting the supplies I need (thank got for the internet and Nordic Needle!) and spending my evening freaking out about not having any profressional demands on me for three months, give or take.

Here's to couch potato-ness. WIsh me luck!

Review of Volcker report

From the New York Review of Books, Brian Urquhart provides an overview of the Volcker report on the Oil-for-Food scandal in Iraq (all six volumes of it).
(1) The Security Council never gave clear direction on who was responsible for oversight, which rather tied the Secretariat's hands.
(2) Kofi Annan and his son Kojo are completely cleared of the slightest sign of taint in the business.
(3) Saddam made more than five times as much (11 billion) from smuggling oil outside the program, as he did from kickbacks within the program. It was at the urging of the U.S. that the smuggling was ignored, since the main beneficiaries - Jordan and Turkey - were friends of America, and already hurting from the sanctions.
(4) The program involved $103 billion dollars in contracts, counting both oil and humanitarian ones. $1.8 billion in kickbacks went to Saddam.
(5) Annan reported potential kickbacks to the Security Council on at least 70 occasions, and the Council - primarily US and Britain - declined to follow up, being more concerned with possible dual use technology. Of 5,000 contracts held up by the SC, only two were held up on suspicion of under the table payments.
(6) The US had a full time team of 40 employees at the UN reviewing Oil for Food contracts. The cash strapped Secretariat had fewer than half of that.
(7) One UN employee - Benon Savan, director of the Oil for Food program - was found to have received illicit funds, to the tune of $150,000, for arranging an 8.8mb contract for the African Middle East Petroleum Company. Savan continues to deny this conclusion of the Volcker Report.
(8) When the US invaded, the Oil for Food program had a reserve of $9 billion. The UN turned this over to the Coalition Provisional Authority. To this day, auditors have not been able to determine where one dime of that money - 5 times the total Oil for Food kickbacks - has gone. This scandal has received a good deal less than 1% of the press attention lavished on the Oil For Food affair.
Seemed like good summary of a topic that I really know little about, except for what the news reports, which are best taken with a grain of salt.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sneezing Fits

I've been reading far too much Wikipedia today. I went in to look up Droste Effect and ended up browsing for..well, a long time. I've always liked reading encylopedias and dictionaries. I love discovering weird factoids:

Apparently, up to 25% of people have a condition called Photic Sneeze Reflex, where they will sneeze (often repeatedly) when exposed to bright light. It's a genetic condition (and, surprisingly, a dominant one). The best part of the article, though, was:
"The photic sneeze reflex is considered a risk factor to combat pilots: people suffering from photic sneeze reflex may not fly combat aircraft."
You think? That might be a bit of a disadvantage.

I love the whole Wiki- concept -- an open source of information that is updateable and linkable by anyone. You can comment on, or correct, any information you find, and the self-policing community that contributes to a Wiki- are amazingly vigilant about biased or incorrect information. Better than any 'regular' encyclopedia, and completely hyperlinked to boot. There are dozens of smaller Wikis, for specific topics, and we've even used the model for some of our technical knowledge base at work.

Unattended children...

From a post on a forum I frequent, which made me laugh out loud:
On the subject of well-behaved young ones, text of a sign at a cafe ...: "Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy."
Yup, I'd keep the munchkins pretty dang close to avoid that! Horrors!

The Droste Effect

Aha! The ad infinitum/self-referencing picture series apparently does have a name, at least in Dutch.
The Dutch chocolate maker Droste is famous for the visual effect on its boxes of cocoa. The image contains itself on a smaller scale. This is called the "Droste effect" in any good Dutch dictionary.
The Velveeta Cheese box, and the Land O'Lakes Butter carton are other examples.

Some more info (and a cool animation) here. Escher is well known for these effects.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Infinite Pictures

Is there a name for a picture that contains a picture of the same thing, into infinity? Like someone holding a picture of themselves holding a picture of themselves...and on and on. Vaguely like those Russian Matrioshka dolls, each one getting smaller and smaller.

I'm not a huge cat fan, but this is a fun experiment into the 'infinite photograph' -- pictures of cats looking a computer screens... The Infinite Cat Project.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Longer History of Time?

I just picked up an interesting new book, Sex, Time and Power by Leonard Shlain. Basically, his theory is that women have been responsible for the shaping of human evolution, for writing, and the concept of 'time". I've only read the intro so far, where the author explains the basis for many of his theories -- women have a lower level of iron in their blood (which an early attending doctor explained to him as "women bleed, men don't", a highly unsatisfactory answer that prompted Dr. Shlain to continue his investigation) and thus organized early family groups to gain a provider for that iron (meat). An odd premise for what looks to be a thought-provoking read. The reviews at Amazon seem promise.

I'l let you know. I've had good luck picking books from the remaindered pile lately. Sex with Kings, a history of the courtesans, Royal Mistresses, and whores who wielded tremendous power during the reigns of early kings in England and France, was another interesting book.

Other things on the current reading pile, preparing for The Great Time-off:
Eight more hours of work. Eight!

Interestingly enough....

From today's Q&A session: "Interestingly enough, the job of a leader is to think strategically."

'Interestingly enough?' Did you just figure this out? This is a new idea? Wow, that is interesting. The so-called leader of the free world seems a bit unclear on the concept.

Or do you think we don't understand this? I assure you, we do.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Where, Oh Where!

I just got whomped on an online forum for writing: And he responded with an emphatic "No".

Don't see anything wrong with that? Neither did I -- but American style (Chicago Manual of Style) insists that the period goes inside the quote marks, pretty much no matter what. My sentence shoud have been, And he responded with an emphatic "No." This looks...unfinished to me.

British English (Oxford Style) is almost the opposite: only put the period in the quotes if the period is actually part of the quoted matter. Or any punctuation for that matter. I apparently read too many British-published books.

Why is this interesting enough to post? Well, I found out why the American style is .", period insid the quote no matter what -- it has nothing to do with grammar, really. Instead, it is a typesetting rule. To make typesetting easier and keep the little teeny period bits from falling over or shifting in a line of type, the period and quote were either put on the same slug, or the period was squashed between the word and the quotation mark to keep it from falling off. Simple expediency.

So, the rule is changing slowly, since we don't actually set type any longer as physical bits.

Psychic Dogs

I truly believe that dogs are psychic, and we're simply too dense to "receive" whatever it is they are telling us to do. Have you ever had a dog stare at you, compelling you do to something? They're definitely saying something. We just don't get it.

Lately, the white beastie has taken to waking me up in the middle of the night to do something. He doesn't have to go out, he's just bored. He sits next to the bed, rests his chin on the mattress and stares at me. I can't sleep with him staring at me. I can feel him sitting there...staring. At 2:15 in the morning.

The adorable husband can ignore him. I can't. It's positively unnerving. I know he's sitting there projecting, "Get uuup! Get uuup and do something! Biscuits! Give me biscuits! Now, human!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Reasonable Delays?

Apparently, the vote on Alito is delayed by a week to allow for further discussion -- which has been decried already as "unjustified and desperate partisan politics". Oh, no, let's not actually put some thought and time into putting someone into the SC, that would be "unjustified".

Let me see if I get this: Bush has assured his supporters many times (from campaign promises to later speeches) that he intended to appoint justices "like Scalia and Thomas", but when the Democrats suggest that Alito may have an ideological agenda, they are being unfair and engaging in "partisan politics". Apparently advise and consent really mean "rubberstamp". I see.

It's only "partisan politics" when your opponent does it.

It's the Thought that Counts

The dear, adorable husband, upon seeing that my car had turned into a completely black-goo-covered dirtball after my commute last night, quite helpfully hooked up the hose and sprayed off the front of the car, the headlights, and the windows.

How nice!

But it was 26 degrees (F) outside. When I came out to my car this morning (which is parked in the driveway because my side of the garage is clogged with storage right now) there was a lovely, clear, smooth covering of ICE all over my car. I had to pry the door open.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I Should Just Lie Down

Only four days and 4 hours left. That means that I'm going to be spending the next four days writing documentation to cover everything that I've done in the last year. whee! Plus, my client is insisting that I produce documents covering what they should do for every possible eventuality they might encounter.

Might I point out that we implemented a data warehouse? And that there are literally thousands of pages about warehouses and troubleshooting already available? Oh, no. They want a "reference" guide so they don't have to find these things themselves. So, on I write. And on. And on and on....

But come Friday...I'm off for three months! Hopefully this will let me get my life back in balance. That sounds really new-agey to me, but what I've seen in the last few months is that my job (with the hour-plus one-way commute and crazy clients) has sucked the joy out of my life. I'm not doing anything that I find interesting, I'm not even doing the things that I truly enjoy. I've almost stopped reading. The website for the Ireland trip is languishing in the planning stages, I have developed an almost OCD relationship with crossword puzzles, and I've easily gained twenty-five pounds in the last year. Burnout is a concept that everyone understands, and when I add what appears to be serious, major depresssion (with oh-so-fun anxiety attacks and insomnia)...I need to do something else for awhile.

It's not like I don't have a list of things I want to do -- I just haven't been able to summon even the barest hint of intersest in things for months. I want to go back to reading, finish my current cross-stich project and start some new ones, write the Ireland travelogue and finish the website, spend time at the library, finish cataloguing the books, reorganize my iPod, wrap up classes, write, frame some of the pictures from the trips. Walk the dogs. Start riding the exercise bike again. Cook dinner at home once in a while.

I have to send out a note to my office telling everyone that I'm taking off. Everyone knows, of course, but my boss thought I should remind people. So, I'm thinking of: "I am taking three months off so that I don't have to take an axe to work and start offing the clients" as a good message. Or, "...so I don't start telling the CEO what I'm really thinking." They won't believe the second one. They figure I already tell the clients exactly what I'm thinking. I think I still manage to keep some of the PC filter in place!

Four days and three hours, fifty minutes.

Al Gore's Speech

Here is the text of Al Gore's speech today regarding the unprecedented expansion of powers by the president. I may not be a huge fan of Gore, but I only wish I could be this eloquent expressing my outrage.

Friday, January 13, 2006

An Apology

Oh, look! Robertson issued a half-assed apology for being a complete loon and suggesting that Ariel Sharon was struck down by god because of his efforts in the middle east peace process.

Do you think it might have anything to do with the fact that Israel withdrew support and a generous land grant for a 50 million dollar evangelical center sponsored by Robertson?

Guerilla Brownies

I was seriously taken advantage by the adorable brownie troop selling Girl Scout cookies in my neighborhood today. At first, a pair of them knocked and (as I usually do) I bought two boxes from each of them. Can't have too many boxes of Thin Mints, if you ask me.

Half an hour later, a second pair of brownies arrive. I explain that I already bought boxes from the other girls but the younger one looked so sad that I bought another box from each of them.

They apparently told the entire troop (which had been spread out in our neighborhood) and over the next two hours, a series of adorable little girls in Brownie outfits knocked on my door.

I am a pushover. I now have something like 12 boxes of cookies arriving in February. And that's assuming they stop coming to my house!

Long Live the King

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. - Benjamin Franklin
A while ago I posted a bit on the signing statement that Bush wrote regarding McCains torture amendment, and how he basically exempted himself from having to adhere to the law. Instead of vetoing legislation he doesn't agree with, he just added a little note saying, "oh, and I interpret this bit to mean..." as a way of influencing the application of the law. So far, they haven't had a huge impact in the court, but that is mostly because they haven't yet been challenged.

So, I was wondering just how common this sort of things is -- and was not surprised to find that Bush has used these more often than any other president. In fact, more than any of the other presidents combined. With Alito's urging, Reagan in his second term began to include such interpretive statements in his signing of bills, and issued 71 signing statements. Sr. Bush issuesd 146 in his single term in office, and Clinton 105 in his two terms. Up through the end of Clinton's second term, presidents have issued a total of 322 signing statements.

Bush junior issued 435 signing statements in his first term. He has never vetoed a bill.

Of course, not all of these signing statements include wording that details how he intends to follow (or not follow) the law. Some are just press releases and lots of self-congratulatory hoo-ha. However, (and much more ominously) in at least 110 of them, he has expressed the concept of "unitary executive", which is a much-discredited legal theory holding that the three branches of government hold the ability to interpret the law and that the president must interpret the law as an equal to the court.

Bush uses this to mean that when it comes to the executive branch, law means what the president says it means, not what congress intended it to mean.

All of the statements that I have read so far (they are available online) contain some notation like "the president shall construe" to explain how he and he alone will interpret the law to apply to the president and how some parts of the law will be ignored at his discretion. Some of these "statements" go section by section through the bill to outline how the president intends to avoid following the laws. For example,
"The executive branch shall construe as calling solely for notification the provisions of the Act that purport to require congressional committee approval for the execution of a law. "
Am I missing something? Our system is designed with that famous idea of 'checks and balances', so that the legislative branch makes the laws, the executive enforced them, ad the judiciary interprets them. We certainly did not approve any theory that basically says, "the president is king". Bush certainly seems to think he is.

Signing statements invoking "unitary executive" are really just a cash-under-the-table line-item veto -- not wanting to veto anything and risk being overridden, the president just issues a statement saying, "well, ok, but it doesn't really apply to me in that way." By invoking the nebulous war on 'terra' he is seeking to justify a statement saying that he doesn't have to obey the law. Just because. Whatever he does is legal, simply because he does it.

To sign a bill into law that you knowingly plan to violate is unethical and dishonest. The constitution quite clearly says that the president and executive branch must follow the law. Being the commander-in-chief of the military forces does not absolve you of that responsibility, regardless of situation. If we cannot count on the president to follow the law, where does that leave us? Anyone who argues that we need to allow the president to "do whatever he feels he needs to 'protect' us" deserve nothing but contempt.

So is Bush alone in this overt power-grab? Well, yes. We've already noted that he has used signing statements more often than any other president, and in them he has invoked this concept of "unitary executive" over 110 times. Reagan used it once, Bush Sr used it six times, and Clinton never used it.

Is anyone concerned? Congress was concerned enough in 2003 to pass legislation to rein in the use of signing statements by requiring notification of congress when the president decided to ignore legislation.

Bush signed the bill including the provision, but issued a signing statement asserting his right to ignore the notification requirement.

Figures. A few other sources:
Rethinking Presidential Power
Findlaw: Unitary Executive

Comparative View
Mercury News:
DailyKOS Unitary Executive

Thursday, January 12, 2006


The adorable husband just called to gloat the has the Best Job in the World. He's standing atop the mountain in 7" of new powder at the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah

Ostensibly, he's at a cardiac conference thing for work. But the schedule actually includes about five hours of skiing a day and the conference package included the lift tickets. They cut out about 10am and then return to the conference at 4. It's on the agenda.

I don't even ski, and this just sounds unfair!

Phasers on Stun

New Criminals: Disruptors

WFT? A teeny change slipped into the Patriot Act makes ok to arrest people entering anyplace where the Glorious King may be, if they believe the person is there to 'disrupt" the events even if they haven't actually done anything yet. The rules are intended to clearly define the role of the secret service, but

We know that Bush is apparently terrified of protesters and they are usually corralled in "free speech zones", so they've apparently decided to pass laws to ensure that he never has to hear a dissenting opinion or see someone waving a sign. That would be disruptive, you know.

Washington Post
Daily Kos
Patriot Daily

Ex Libris

Well, here's something that is definitely going to squick out the squeamish.

Apparently the practice of binding fine books in leather hasn't always restricted the materials used to the denizens of the farmyard. While libraries of old books probably don't want to publicize the fact, a number of fine tomes are actually bound in human leather. It's doubtful that anyone was offed to bind up a copy of an anatomy textbook in the collection at The National Library of Medicine in MD (likely skin was from cadavers used in research), but researchers have apparently found evidence that using human skin was not uncommon with private collectors, who were the primary owners of books in antiquity

Other books (including an account of someone's trial bound in his own skin, and copies of 18th century morality tales about life and death, and a few books with noticeable tattoos) exist at many libraries, and the estimate is that a few hundred such volumes survive. Researchers are quite sure that these volumes are not the result of some sort of Hannibal Lector-type criminal, however; in some cases, the "donor" of the binding was thanked in the text. (More).

Laundry Monsters, redux

I finally succumbed and moved the water dish closer to the door and away from the Horrible Laundry Monsters. Now, Uulaq will at least creep in there for a drink as long as I stand in the laundry room with her, but she's begun this bizarre behavior that just makes me chuckle: she creeeps in, staying as far from the washer as possible, drinks a few slurps, and then turns away to circle around two times before going back in for another few sips.

Slurp Slurp Slurp. Turn. Turn. Pause. Slurp Slurp Slurp. Turn. Turn. Pause. Slurp...

I know dogs will do the circle-in-place maneuver before laying down as a way to convince themselves that there is a "escape route", so I can only surmise that the beastie is doing the same thing here. I'm beginning to feel quite sorry for her, but there really isn't any place else to put the dog dishes so she's going to have to get used to things. I'm getting a bit annoyed that I have to accompany the beast every time, so I hope she gets over it soon.

I suppose that the fronts of the (much taller) machines dolook like eyes and mouths -- and rather angry ones at that. At least to the dog. And me, now that I get a good look at them. Yikes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Would You Hire this Guy?

I have been studiously avoiding watching any of the Alito hearings. Paying attenton to politics makes me a bit crazy lately, but I do get pinged a lot with emails, etc, from friends who are dyed-in-the-wool political addicts.

I don't particularly like Alito, based at least in part on the fact that Bush does like him (which means that he is probably a right-wing nutjob with minimal qualifications), so I will admit immediate and rather virulent bias. Pretty much my reaction to anything that's going on right now. But, one thing caught my eye in the transcripts and stuff that I've seen of Alito's sessions.

He has been questioned hard on papers and opinions that he wrote in job applications when he was a young lawyer and many of the memos he wrote in prior jobs. Some of these opinions are quite extreme. Alito's explanation? He only wrote those extreme views at the time to get the jobs.

I would NEVER hire this guy for any job that required him to actually make judgements. He's not capable of doing it. He panders to power. Either he lied to get the job, or he's lying now. Which one is it? He'll say what will get him what he wants, and if he's in the pocket of the conservatives (like they seem to believe) he can be expected to continue acting the way they want him to, to get the job. Will he write opinions to keep his political supporters happy? It's one thing to "butter up the boss" for a new job, quite another to sign on to parrot whatever the boss wants in order to get a job. You cannot convince me that he isn't going to do the same thing on the court.

It's also amazing that a man proposed to the highest court in the land has such a hard time remembering things, and seems to be more intersested in babbling talking points than actually answering questions. These sessions are usually just mutual masturbation, anyways, but the additional fact that Alito had a 'coaching session;' with some of the senators who sit on the judiciasry committee before these hearings is also unethical. Do they think we won't notice?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Am I Annoying You?

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Giant Laundry Monsters

Alright, while we love the new washer and dryer, the dogs are apparently petrified of them and will not go back into the corner where we keep their food and, more importantly, their water.

Uulaq has been drinking from the toilets exclusively for about a week. (Yes, we put the lid down,. but she knows how to push it up and jam her head inside to drink. Luckily, we're pretty good at remembering to flush.) Rukh creeps back there, all crouched and stretched out, nabs a few pieces of food or a quick slurp of water and then dashes back into the kitchen in a flurry of laid-back ears and scrabbling nails.

We have been unable to lure Uulaq into the laundry room, even with promises of biscuits and treats. I'm not sure what happened. Their food and water were beside the old washer and dryer for years without any problems. The new ones are quieter, but they are taller. They are the same color. Perhaps the corner is now too...deep, or something.

We've decided on a tough-love approach, and are closing the bathroom doors and leaving the water where it is supposed to be and banking on her getting thirsty enough to brave the Giant Laundry Monsters. We've been careful to make sure they are not on when we leave, and all the doors are shut and nothing will beep or clang. She can creep in there at her leisure. Hopefully before she gets all dehydrated.

Of course, dogs have strange and unpredictable fears about stuff. About a year ago, Rukh developed a pathological fear of the grass in the backyard and would not go out on it. He'd skirt the grass, walking in the flower beds or against the fence. We thought he may have been stung by a bee he stepped on, but we never saw any evidence of that. In the past, the beasties have decided that vacuums, plastic bags, my hat, brooms, and at least one of their toys was Verifiablyl Scary. At least to dogs. They're awfully weird.

Affirmative Academia

There has been a lot of murmurings lately about how academia is too liberal and how conservative professors aren't being hired and are often being actively discouraged from taking positions. Apparently David Horowitz recently studied the ideological leanings of 500 faculty members at law and journalism schools "to find liberal bias".

His methods? How many were registered Republicans vs registered Democrats.
They found many more registered Democrats than Republicans. At Columbia’s journalism school it was fifteen to one; at Stanford’s law school, twenty-eight to one; at Berkeley’s journalism school, ten to zero. He seemed to have moved beyond the realm of mere supposition and anecdote.

Before getting to the larger issues involved, it’s worth noting that Horowitz did not actually build a lay-down-the-cards case for the existence of bias at professional schools. He has not studied — yet — what they teach, which is the real issue. [CJR.org]
He does not study what students or faculty believe, and whether the much-feared liberal indoctrination is really happening. He does not study what is actually taught in class and whether that is "biased". He does not study the qualifications of available professors or whether there are simply not enough qualified conservative academics to rate positions at such highly-rated institutions. He does not, in fact, study anything meaningful -- his only goal, it seemed, was to find anecdotal evidence of bias.

As a result, there is a clamor for a change -- Fix this! Pass legislation to demand fair treatment of conservative viewes! Get more conservative professors in place, ensure that conservative voices match liberal ones , make sure that students get a "fair and balanced" view of things. All of this I am hearing from conservative voices.

But...but, I thought conservatives were against affirmative action.

No, wait. They're only against it when it benefits women and minorities. When it comes to benefiting conservatives, and legacy admissions to Ivy League schools, they're foursquare in favor of it. Hypocrites.
(And, as a side note, I am opposed to affirmative action of any form.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Justifiable Air Rage

I related this story on one of the forums I frequent and was taken to task about being completely out of line by one of the other posters. Several others thought I was quite restrained. You be the judge:

I hate air travel. I hate the lines, I hate the bloody TSA wanding me because I'm wearing an underwire bra, I hate people who carry on three enormous bags and put them in the overhead at the front of the plane and then walk to the back. I hate that you get no food on flights anymore, I hate that the seats are so close together that you can barely breath and even short people like me get pretzeled. I hate just about everything about flying -- except that it gets you where you're going in less than fifteen hours.

I used to travel a lot for work (2+ flights a week) and for the most part it's a dreaded. but necessary thing. If we all realize that we're stuck in the plane for however many hours and try to work together, we can all be comfortable. Or at least be civil to each other. It's not like we have a lot of options.

However -- a few years ago on a flight from DC to Denver I squashed myself into the seat and then, just as the meal was served (back when they actually served food on planes) the gentleman in front of me suddenly and forcefully reclined his seat completely. I couldn't even SEE the tray table, much less attempt to eat.

I asked if he could please put his seat up a notch or so, just for a few minutes, so I could finish my sandwich. I did not yell, I did not demand that he sit bolt-upright for hours, I simply asked for a few minute reprieve to finish my meal before he reclined his seat again to sleep. I was quite pleasant about it, in a "we're in this together, can you do me a favor for a few secs" kind of way. It had absolutely no impact on this man.

He looked up over his shoulder, and said, "No." in a tone of voice that implied I was a bitch and how dare I even suggest that he inconvenience himself.

I snapped. I can't remember ever being that angry at another traveler before. So I reverted to childish behavior and rhythmically kicked the bottom of his seat for the rest if the flight and when he turned around and snarled at me to stop it, I replied sweetly, "No." And denied that I was doing it when he summoned the flight attendant and demanded that "you make that $%#$@^ stop it!"

Childish, yes. Justified? Maybe.

It's Good to be King

This popped up in a forum this morning as a quote, but I can't find any source. Any ideas? I'm already pissed off enough that he thumbed his nose at the congresssional oversight process and made all these recess appointments for no defensible reason, but this is a bit too much...
"But this president, in an interpretation that can only be termed bizarre, is insisting that a one-minute ceremonial pro forma meeting of the Senate that occurred on Tuesday, January 3rd, represented the opening meeting of the second session of the 109th Congress, which he interprets as giving life to his recess appointments until the end of 2007 rather than 2006."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Childless women Unhappy? Nah.

A study published by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior ("Clarifying the Relationship between Parenthood and Depression") notes that:
"People with minor children at home, non custodial children, adult children at home, and nonresidential stepchildren all report significantly more symptoms of depression than non parents when controlling for sociodemographic factors," says Evenson. "In fact, there is no type of parent in this national sample that reports less symptoms of depression than nonparents."
This has been variously reported in relation to Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa as parents being less satisfied with the holidays than non parents. I wonder if this is simply because there is so much more pressure to have the perfect holiday when there are children involved; you want Christmas to be perfect for them. The pressure to provide the perfect, happy, Christmas family is too much. Childless people usually don't have a small person expecting a certain "show" for the holidays that requires parents to keep things "happy".

The holidays always seem to bring out the worst stress for people: seeing and dealing with family members they don't usually see, dealing with the undercurrents of weird family dynamics and ignoring aunt Xs drinking problem or the presence of the fifth different boyfriend in five years from a remote cousin. most people are not their best when the holidays come around. When children are involved, there is the crushing need to make sure they enjoy the festivities (and make them the center of attention).

But hard on the heels of this study was an article in the BBC News that explains that the prevailing belief is that people without children must be less happy than people with children, even if it is not actually true for most people.
Parents widely believe that to be childless is to be unhappy. They tend to pity their friends who do not have children, believing they "could have no conception of what they were missing".

Yet alongside this pity, is a feeling that those who have opted not to propagate are "selfish, inflexible, unfulfilled and lonely".
I really have to wonder how people came to these opinions. It certainly doesn't describe anyone I know.

I've had friends with children declare that I "just don't know what I'm missing" or that I am selfish or self-centered to remain childless (?!) or that I couldn't possibly be really, really fulfilled without a child. Um. No. I'm very happy childless, I do know what I'm missing. I live in the world, I am around children. I like children -- I just don't want to do it myself.

I don't understand it when women explain to me this "ticking clock" thing that demands that they have children, or the sometimes obsessive drive to have them. I don't think that people who have kids are wrong -- it's just as incomprehensible to them that I would not choose to have them. But it's like taking sides in a religious war. To suggest that my life is full and happy without children is seen as a criticism that someone with kids made the wrong choices and I'm somehow "superior" -- which is exactly the same way that I feel when someone extols the virtues of having children. I guess we just can't see the other side. Women who admit they don't want kids are still seen as incomplete, or unfulfilled, or -- usually -- misguided.

With more and more women choosing to remain childless, I'm wondering how long it will take for the mistaken view that childless women are unnatural or to be pitied to change. The National Center of Health Statistics confirms that the percentage of women of childbearing age who define themselves as voluntarily childless is on the rise: from 2.4 percent in 1982, to 4.3 percent in 1990, to 6.6 percent in 1995 (the most recent available figure). The number f women aged 15-44 who do not (or do not yet) have children continues to grow.

From my own experience, it seems that roughly the same number of women are choosing to have children, they are just choosing to do it later and have fewer kids. Does that invalidate the women who opt out of motherhood? I don't think so. I think as women have more choices in life, they start to view having children as one of those options, not a default position or mandatory role for them.

Friday, January 06, 2006


I discovered that there is a name for the figure of speech that is 'mentioning something by not mentioning it, usually for damaging intent" -- praeteritio -- such as, "And I'm too honest a person to talk about the allegations that my opponent is a pedophile."

I do it all the time. Every single time we actually cook breakfast, I manage to sneak in some comment that I like my scrambled eggs dry and browned and crispy. I've resorted to this sort of backhanded model, just as the eggs hit the pan. "See? I didn't even mention that I like my eggs dry." Now I know there's a name for it. Cool.

Three Coins in a Fountain

Had lunch with my uberboss today. He wanted to talk to me about the upcoming sabbatical (woohoo! Eleven more days) and was quite concerned that I was going to come back. I plan to -- barring winning the lottery or something like that. I'll send a note out to the people at work this week and explain that I am "taking a few weeks off so I don't have to start offing the clients." Anyone who has worked with me in the past six months should have that picture loud and clear already.

 from http://www.toanthai.com/italy2003/rome2003/pages/rome16.htmWe had hoped to take Nin to Italy (sans her five-year-old son), but I think the schedule is just not going to work out this month. She will be taking her NCLEX (nursing licensing) exam this month and is job hunting (if anyone knows of good nursing gigs that are for DAYS in the Twin Cities, give me a yell). My mother had originally offered to take care of said nephew, but she is flaky and won't commit to it. I'm not surprised. She is Queen of the Drama Queens, and likes prove her power by screwing with other people's plans. Also, the timing for the trip is tight -- we definitely want to be out of there before the Olympics start in Turin. We originally wanted to go for 2 weeks, so we'll have to see what eventually fits. So, possibly over the summer or even next year.

Which would be a shame, really. Traveling really does open doors for people and provide a common ground with a whole group of fellow travelers. Considering that only about 20% of Americans have passports (the number varies based on who you talk to, sometimes as low as 7%) it's apparently a small club around here. Experiencing another culture is critical to understanding your own (and yourself, I think). Not everyone is like us, and there are a lot of people who need to be smacked upside the head with the idea that America is not the end-all-be-all of culture. We export our culture at a staggering rate, but too many people have never traveled outside of their own tiny sphere and view anything different as "less". Sad, really.

I'm a johnny-come-lately to the whole travel thing, of course. I got my passport at age 30. Still, the weeks that I have spent wandering the countryside in the UK or trundling through the desert have been fabulous. I've met new people, embarrassed myself by mispronouncing French, been spit on camels, and eaten foods that I still cannot identify. I love getting lost, derailing the whole itinerary, and spending a few days lodged in some out of the way town that no one ever visits. I want to share that with my sister before she gets bogged down with work and single-parent motherhood and all the things that take up your time when you have to join the real world. I hope it works out.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Strike Two

Got this in email.
"The Rev. Pat Robertson said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being punished by God for dividing the Land of Israel. Robertson, speaking on the “700 Club” on Thursday, suggested Sharon, who is currently in an induced coma, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli extremist in 1995, were being treated with enmity by God for dividing Israel. “He was dividing God’s land,” Robertson said. “And I would say, Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.”
Hm. These men support war for decades, then when they try to actually do something for peace, god strikes them down. Sounds just like the kind of god that Robertson would worship, doesn't it?


I really want one of these keyboards. Perhaps it's a sign of uber-geekiness, but I think a completely blank keyboard is pretty cool. Now all I have to do is change over to a dvorak layout and people will be completely confused. I don't need no stinkin' letters!

I wish it came as a split keyboard though. Sigh. You can find them at ThinkGeek.

Overbites and Glass

Two things: one, my chiropractor actually made my excruitiating back pain worse and it is now exquisitely painful to walk upright. I'm devolving. By dinner I may be knuckle walking and grunting.

Second, I finally finished listening to my current audio book. I've been reading and listening to my way through the Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts. I picked up the book a few months ago and then discovered it on Audible.com -- all 56 hours of it. I've been listening off and on in my car during my commute (which, at an hour each way, is perfect for listening). It's definitely not one of those fluffy audiobooks that you can put on in the background and get enough of the story to be entertained. This is pretty dense stuff. I've discovered if I pay enough attention to really keep up, I tend to drive on autopilot, which can be scary when you realize you've arrived at work and have no idea how you got there!

It's fascinating, though. Usually history books are dry, mind-numbingly boring lists of dates and names strung together with the barest hint of narrative grace. They read like high-shool textbooks, which we all remember as stultifying and bland. This book is quite different, focusing instead on the broad impact of culture and social changes and how they affected society. There are enough dates and names to give you a good grounding in general history, but it is his analysis of changes and their wide-ranging effects that makes this an interesting read. It's very broad -- covering human pre-history to the 21st century -- but never seems to be vague. As a longtime reader of history books, I have been searchng out his books, which include a History of the 20th Century, a History of Europe, and The Trimph of the West.

It was in the History of the World that I learned that until 1066, most western Europeans had a straight-on bite (teeth meeting like chicklets) and only after the flourishing of the feudal system and its change in agriculture methods and foodstuffs did we develop the overbite that is so common today. Not the most useful of trivia, but guaranteed to impress at parties. The Egyptians invented beer, the Sumerians invented glass, that sort of thing.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Signed, but not signed...

Don't know what to make of this -- as it reads, the Shrub signed the law but with certain caveats that he can ignore McCain's legislation regarding torture if he determines it "necessary". It's common to have a statement associated with the signing of a bill, so I have no idea what this will mean in practice, but I'm sure it's part of the plan to "restore presidential power". Still looking for more info on this.

Look, mama, a Ho!

When my nephew was about three, Nin took him to see Santa at the mall for a picture. She prepped him for weeks on how Santa was a jolly old fellow, how nice and how fun it would be. Santa would laugh, "Ho ho ho!" and Mr. P would get his picture taken and tell
Santa what toys he wanted.

Well primed by mom to expect a jolly, laughing elf, he arrived at the mall, spied the red-suited Santa and announced loudly to all and sundry, "Look mama, it's a Ho ho! It's a HO!"

Now that the holidays are over, we can look back fondly on them and laugh a little. This immensely funny collection of scary Santa pictures is worth a giggle or two. Quite a few of those Santas look a bit worse for wear, and many more are downright disreputable. But, the traditional holiday picture of kids with Santa survives...boozy Santa or no.

I'm a bit frightened of the Santa in #5, myself., so I can sympathize with the screaming kids.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Born Naked

The peasants in the Netherlands didn't have 'official' surnames until an edict from Napoleon made them mandatory. Many of the peasants didn't take it seriously, and an odd sense of humor can be seen in the surnames they picked: Naaktgeboren "Born Naked", Vroegindewei "Early in the Pasture", and Uittenbroek "Out of his pants"

I'm not Dutch, so this has no real relevance except it really made me laugh.

New Years Fest

Back from the family New Years Fest. It was lovely -- the new babies are adorable (see Slipperytiger for updates) and the fondue-dinner for 22 people went off without a hitch. Not that we had to do the planning, mind you. We were drafted for the execution of the plan while Mormor (grandma) held the babies and soothed them with the patented Grandparent Touch, so it was a breeze for us at least. Laura and John look like they are getting at least some sleep, so they are ready to head back home to tackle this alone for awhile. Much crying and fussing, as is usual with babies, but also much cuteness -- even to me, a curmudgeonly old childless person. The Adorable Husband is a favorite baby-parking choice. He's warm, rumbles when he talks, and has a loud heartbeat that seems to lull them into unconsciousness.

I was (gently) chided for never having actually attending the Fest before (this is a gathering that has a 35+ year history). Dinner was lovely, the company was fun. Very nice. As I mentioned before, I tend to avoid my family holidays like the plague and only go back once every few years or so, if that. This was pretty painless. I tend to forget that the Husband's family is very nice and actually likes to get together for holidays -- unlike mine, which can become psycho family smackdown with little or no warning.

Had lunch with my clan, though, which was fun. I realized as we were sitting there that Wow, is my family LOUD. We talk loudly, laugh even louder, and we must be downright intimidating to any outsiders. Everyone was on best behavior and we had a nice time. Young Mr. P (my sister's 5 year old son) was in high dudgeon after being told he could not play pool in the "smoking room" of the restaurant and spent most of the meal laying under the table, draped over a chair. Nin ignored him, but my mother (in fine grandmotherly fashion) launched into the 'appease the child' program. Nin is trying to make some changes and set limits at home, and I know that she's going to have a bigger problem changing my middle sister's and my mother's behavior than she is changing her son's behavior. She's in for a few difficult weeks, I fear.

Nin stopped by my in-law's to meet the babies (and was overtaken with Baby Lust and wanted to sniff and snuggle the wee ones for an hour. Is this normal? Do all parents completely melt when faced with a new, cute baby? Weird.) Anyway, Mr. P was on his best behavior, but kept leaning in close to mom to tell her to 'put the baby DOWN!' When they got home, he asked her plaintively, "Mama, I'm the only kid you want, right?" He definitely doesn't want any brothers and sisters. Nin looks fabulous, as usual. She's the only one of the family who has any sense of style whatsoever, even if she lets Mr. P dress up like a bad 80's hair band once in a while. Layered pink polo shirts? I mean, really.

Minnesota was positively lovely! It was snowing heavily when we landed, and stayed still and cool so the snow still decorated all the trees like a Currier and Ives painting.