Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Counting Down...

I missed NaNoWriMo last year -- the timing was terrible. But I'm definitely trying this year. 50,000 words, here I come!

I have no plot, no setting, no plan....yeeha! This should be fun!

Irony Impaired

I'm a huge fan of the Colbert Report, and when he announced he was running in the presidential primary in South Carolina (and tried to figure out how to get Doritos to fund his campaign), I was tickled pink.

But it seems that people are taking this seriously, as far as it goes.
Although he's only planning to run in the primaries in his native state of South Carolina, a new Rasmussen poll finds that Stephen Colbert might have some pull as a third-party candidate.

In a three-way race with Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, Hillary has 45%, Rudy 35% — and Colbert breaks double digits to get 13%. With Fred Thompson as the Republican nominee, it's Clinton 46%, Thompson 34%, and Colbert 12%.

Colbert seems to draw most of his support from the GOP column, indicating a real unhappiness among Republican voters — either that, or conservatives who have watched his show really don't get the joke
Don't get the joke, indeed. I have -- once -- personally met someone who didn't quite get that Colbert's show is a satiric sendup of a conservative talk show. It was boggling.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Embarassing Dog Costumes

I have successfully resisted the urge to dress up the dogs in costumes at any holiday.

Some people are not so successful.

Although I did find the Headless Horseman photo awfully inspired.

I Feel Safer, too

I've long felt that putting airport security in the hands of the TSA/federal government has meant we have a huge presence of security personnel, but very little actual security. Nowadays, even though the security screening process is about the same as it ever was (well, taking off our shoes is a new and unwelcome addition, I guess), there are a bazillion times more personnel wandering around with TSA patches on their uniforms. But even though they are visible, they don't provide much in the way of actual security.

Recent tests revealed that 3/4 of fake "test bombs" made it through security in Los Angeles, 60% in Chicago. TSA personnel were the testers, attempting to bring in bomb parts and paraphernalia in their carry-ons to test the search procedures at these airports.
Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.
But look at the performance (with the same tests) at an airport that doesn't have TSA involved in security:
San Francisco International Airport screeners, who work for a private company instead of the TSA, missed about 20% of the bombs, the report shows.
But even better? San Francisco managed to keep that percentage despite being tested twice as often. The TSA ran about 70 tests at Los Angeles, 75 at Chicago and 145 at San Francisco

The TSA claims that the private company in San Francisco is just responding to the fact they are facing more covert tests, so they are ready for them. Uh-huh. No real comment on the fact that the TSA (except for a short period directly after 9/11) has always had poorer results than private companies both before and after TSA was installed as primary airport security. Their failure rate has been climbing steadily. Admittedly, the tests are harder now, but that really doesn't make me feel any better about a 20% success rate.

Tests earlier in 2002 showed screeners missing 60% of fake bombs. In the late 1990s, tests showed that screeners missed about 40% of fake bombs, according to a separate report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Comments on the USA Today story tended to the "way to go! Tell the terrorists what our weaknesses are!" and castigating the newspaper for printing the story because it was a security risk. I really don't understand that response-- do they think that actual terrorists are stupid? That they aren't already aware of chinks in our "homeland security"? It's bad to report that TSA is getting an F in actual security, but not bad that they are failing? That does seem to be a hall mark of this administration, I guess -- it's the leak that's the problem, not the activity that prompted it. I supposed it makes good Talk Radio fodder, but as for me, I'm just boggled by that attitude.

Yes, I do worry that someone could bring materials on board, but it's honestly pretty low on my list of things I'm worried about. Never mind that they don't actually scan all the cargo on the planes, that only 1% of incoming cargo is checked at rail lines or harbors...there are things I am far more worried about than revealing the major faults of our security plan.

At least TSA never misses those contraband water bottles. Yay!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Downloadable Attitude

It's been, what? Five days since the Adorable Husband started car shopping? We spent our Saturday test driving cars again and he is home with a Really Really Spiffy Acura TL-S. It has bells and whistles and voice control and real-time traffic analysis GPS. And heated seats. Did I mention is has voice control?

It's hard to find cars for him, of course -- being tall, he doesn't fit in much. We had a three minute trip to the Saab dealer (does he fit? nope? Thanks!). When a repeat test drive of the new Passat was less than fabulous, back we went to the Acura dealer. Our neighbors have two Acuras, and my good friend has a coupe -- bad influences, the lot of them!

I actually like dickering for cars, now that I can have all the information printed out from the web (and Consumer Reports) . Dealers must hate that, but we got a great deal on the car! Just repeating "Yes, I understand what it means and no, I'm not paying that." over and over seems to work!

Did I mention is has voice control? (Can you tell I think it's SO cool'?). "Set passenger temperature 68". "play cd 5 track 2". The Adorable Husband got up early to program the car to use his phone hands-free, open the garage doors without a little clicker box, set our home address. It looks up real-time traffic information and has turn-by-turn directions in a lovely woman's voice (the male voice sounds a wee bit smarmy).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Heckuva Job!

On Tuesday, FEMA held a "press briefing" to cover their response to the fires in California. Answered questions, made statements, that sort of thing. Just what we'd expect with a response to an emergency situation.

Except, it wasn't.

The "reporters" were actually FEMA staffers. Yup, fake reporters, and this distinction was not made clear at all. To all the video feeds, it was assumed that the questions really were from news organizations who had some responsbility to actually report, you know, the news.

FEMA had called the briefing with about 15 minutes notice as federal officials headed for Southern California to oversee firefighting and rescue efforts. Reporters were also given a phone number to listen in but could not ask questions.

But with no reporters attending and a FEMA video feed being carried live by some television networks, FEMA press employees posed questions for Johnson that included: "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?"

In an administration that has already been under fire for manipulating the news media, PR masquerading as news, screening audiences, and requiring "free speech zones", even this was over the top.

Matter of Scale

I tend to have the television on during the day while I work -- usually just parked on the History Channel or HGTV. Lately, I've been half-listening to decorating shows and something caught my attention this morning.

The family wanted a new family room, and one of the things that they kept stressing was "we have a lot of books, we'll need space for them", "a LOT of books, make sure you have cabinets", etc. Over and over again.

Well, it's patently obvious that my definition of "LOT OF BOOKS" is very, very far from other people's definition.

The remodel was lovely, with a big wall of built-in bookshelves....containing maybe 50 books. Fifty.

I have fifty books in the bookcase behind the desk. The smallest bookcase in my office. I've got 20-some on the almost-an-afterthought bookshelf upstairs next to the chair. I have several hundred books in the stairwell. As far as I'm concerned, you don't have "lots" of book unless you have over a thousand. ALthough, considering that most people have a handful of books scattered in the house, I suppose having fifty books in one room is quite a collection.

"Lots of books". Ha!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I am SUCH a geek

i am a major geek I am a Major Geek, according to Innergeek. I was checking a startling number of those little checkboxes.

Take the test! Join the ranks of the majorly geeky. I'm pretty sure that if I'd gone to band camp, I'd be a SUPER geek!

Is This Good or Bad?

From today's news,
The Pew Research Center has released a new poll showing that 41% of Americans responding are unable to come up with the names of any Republican presidential candidates without prompting. In contrast, only 19% are unable to name even one Democratic candidate.

I really can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Almost 80% of people could mention Hillary Clinton as a democratic candidate. Again, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing at this point. Only 57% Republicans could come up with Rudy Guiliani -- the front-runner for their own party.

It is kind of amusing, though. Keep in mind that this is not terribly different than in previous years.

This level of awareness of Democratic candidates is far beyond what it was at the equivalent point in the 2004 campaign, while the awareness of Republican candidates is generally similar to that in past elections, resulting in what Pew describes as "a sizable partisan gap in campaign interest."

I don't know that it's because Democrats are so much more interested, but I think that people in general are sick and tired of the same message being repeated by the candidates. Republicans that I know are really disillusioned about government right now. (Hell, most people are disillusioned about government right now, I shouldn't single out Republicans). The instant name-recognition for Hillary Clinton might be the sole reason for the huge increase in the ability to recognize Democratic candidates -- whether you like her or not, you probably know she's running.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fires from Space

Wow. I've been reading that they evacuated a quarter of a million people, but it's hard to imagine the scope of things. Here's a satellite pic.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dalek Pumpkins

This person has far too much time on their hands. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate it. And of course, make sure to view the video, too!

Atomic Energy from French Underwear

Back in the seventies, an absolutely fabulous television serious from the BBC , Connections, by James Burke was aired. I remember seeing the show in it's original airing on PBS and in reruns for several years afterwards. I always loved the show -- it is an "Alternate History of Change", that is, why the social fad of wearing underwear led to the computer, or how the focus on the purity of gold by traders in Turkey resulted in the Atomic Bomb.

Weird, perhaps, but absolutely fascinating.

Well, the DVDs of the three original series have been released (and thankfully offered by Netflix!) and the Adorable Husband and I are enjoying every moment of them. A bit cheesy, with the 70s outfits and Star-Trek inspired music, but the shows are an eye-opening look at how history can be interpreted in new and interesting ways -- how sometimes the smallest, oddest discovery can open whole new worlds of possibilities.

I can only imagine the depth of understanding James Burke has for history to be able to link the gold purity example to the Bomb. Strange connection? Well, it's something like 1) early turkish traders figured out how to determine the purity of gold, so 2) metals could be used for money so 3) trade increased dramatically in scope, which led to the discovery of the 4) lateen sail, which allowed tacking into the wind, and needed 5) larger ships that lead to the development of the rudder. Eventually, these large ships moved across the ocean using the 6) compass, but sailors realized that there was a difference between magentic north and true north, so they began to investigate and began to see the 7) gravitational pull in the earth. The scientist figuring this out was interested in meteorology, and began to test gravity in spheres, and discovered that 8) a ball of sulphur would crackle and spark if you rubbed it, and his book on magnets inspired Benjamin Franklin and the discovery of 9) electricity in lightining. From there, interest in weather led to 9) investigation into cloud formations and pressure changes at altitude (with the French spending a lot of time in balloons. One of the first weather stations, at Ben Nevis in Scotland revealed the formation of 10) glories -- haloes around objects in the clouds, which prompted a scientist to build 11) a "cloud machine" which he eventually ran x-rays through to see if they would illuminate the cloud formations. One of the early atomic scientists recognized the photos of the x-rayed cloud formation as being 12) evidence of atomic fission and voila! the bomb was born. With a small side-trip from 10 to the creation of radar which allowed the planes to actually fly to Hiroshima.

Ok, maybe I misssed a small step or two, but it makes for a compelling and interesting series.

If you haven't ever seen the show (or read the book), it's well worth a few evenings.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Avoid the Bumps

The Adorable Husband's car has suddenly cropped up with a 'check engine' light -- which, while it was nothing, did highlight the need for some major maintenance on his car in the next few months. The light was for a teensy leak in the evaporative system, whatever that means, and could be as simple as a faulty gas cap. But looking at hte car did reveal that he had some problems with CV joints (also something I know nothing about, but are apparently quite important for the front wheels to work properly!) and a rather stern warning from our mechanic that we need to thinka bout replacing the timing belt before the 100K replacement period. The repair is 5-600, but if it actually fails, it completely boofs up the engine, to the tune of a 5K engine replacement. It's supposed to last to 100K miles, but he's been seeing failures as early as 70K. And it needs new tires. Soon.

The car has 78K on it now. Hm.

We normally replace cars at about 95K miles -- just about the time they start to become Maintenance Hogs and you get nickled and dimed to death with repairs.

I didn't quite understand why the Adorable Husband would consider dropping 1/5 to 1/4 the value of the current car on repairs when he was going to drive it for less than a year. Ah, he nodded sagely....and went out looking at new cars!

He doesn't fit into many cars, being 6'4", and I categorically refuse to ride in an SUV, so his choices are a bit limited -- VWs, some Hondas/Acuras, the Toyota Avalon. We went out and test drove the VW Passat, and were disappointed to realize that the V6, which he currently has, is no longer available in a stick. We also drove one of the sporty little Acura TL S-series, which was FUN! although a bit pricey. THere are some 2007's still available, so we are mulling over whether he need a car now or can wait a bit.

I hate buying cars -- I think everyone hates buying cars. But it hsa become so much easier now, since information about invoice price and rebates is available online to car buyers. I can walk in with documentation from multiple places that the invoice price the dealer paid is X dollars and add the acceptable average profit to get to a reasonable offer It must make the car dealerships nuts.

The last time we bought a car, the sales person actually argued with us that the invoice price wasn't accurate and that the web was a poor place to get car buying information. This, of course, was the same person who tried to explain away 'Market Adjustment' (which is really just how much they think they can charge because we're in Boulder) and insisted that the buyer always pays the Dealer Holdback. Yeah, right. I've walked out of more car dealerships than I can count. It's kind of fun.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Ongoing Couch Search

You'd think that it would be easy to find furniture, right? Well, I bet that the Adorable Husband is wishing right about now that he'd jumped on the bandwagon at Sofa Mart to buy the original sofa that I liked.

Hah! He didn't like that one (well, I have to admit that the ingrained tendency he has to look for quality merchandise, learned from his parents, is almost always a Good Thing). Now, it does have a good warranty, and while it's not hand-tied 8-way springs and down cushions, it does have a lifetime warranty on the springs and cushions, but it's definitely on the low end of "decent quality furniture". I would have been perfectly happy with it. And, as many people pointed out, if I spent only 2K on a couch and loveseat, I wouldn't feel so bad about replacing it in five or seven years.

So we went to Kacey Fine Furniture this week and talked to one of their designers. They have some very nice furniture, and the very nice designer we talked to reaffirmed my possible furniture layout. While he was a bit dismissive of the fact that I picked the color of the walls before the furniture, he had a few options that definitely fell in our price range.

The other option was a local design center that apparently caters to the McMansion set -- the designer was quite skeptical that we could get what we wanted for less than 5K or so. She seemed a bit put out that we didn't budget ten grand for living room furniture. Um, no. Probably not. If it's perfect, maybe -- but six thousand for a couch is probably out of our price range right now.

Although, considering that we are already budgeting for new carpeting --which we'll put in next spring when we are absolutely sure that the puppies are reliably housetrained-- skimping on a sofa doesn't make a lot of sense. We visited La-z-boy, which has a sofa style that I really like and we can customize the fabrics to come awfully close to what I want. We'll be back there this week to get a good quote and see what's what.

To be honest, I'm not in a hurry. There isn't anything WRONG with the current furniture (well, the recliner is pretty much toast, but it's structurally fine) and I just want a change, but it's not like I"m going to go bonkers without it.

It's almost impossible to shop for furniture, though. I mean -- where did the local furniture shop go? WE used to have a dozen or more furniture showrooms around, I remember my parents going from one to the other looking for everything from sofas to kitchen tables. Nowadays, you have the choice of American Furniture Warehouse -- the mecca of low-end to medium-quality furniture, and Ethan Allen (which carries my grandmother's furniture and avant garde minimalist furniture and nothing in between, and that's about it. We have online, of course, but I think most people don't want to buy furniture they can't sit on, you know? It's really frustrating. It's especially frustrating if you don't like the current trend in furniture and want something a little different. We definitely don't want leather, which limits us to about a quarter of the available furniture styles. Hmph.

There is a distinct possibility that I can ask a good friend who is working in Salt Lake City to visit the one showroom that apparently has my favorite couch, so hopefully he will have time to go and sit in it and see if it's is comfortable. I trust his opinion entirely, and if he says it's ok, I may order it long distance and have it shipped here. Here's hoping!

I have to commend the Adorable Husband on his patience, of course. He is even managing to express an opinion or two about decorating He was having a conversation with a coworker about how we deal with conflict in our marriage and the only thing he could think of that we really argue about is decorating. Heh.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Better than a Dalmation

A Newfoundland dog on Long Island survived a house fire by jumping into the bathtub, pulling the curtain closed around the tub, and breathing air from the drain pipe.

When firefighters found him after an hour in the flaming house, he was in the tub, breathing air from the tub drain, which is something "old school" that a firefighter might do in an emergency.

Firefighters were astounded to see that the dog somehow figured out that the drain would allow him to breathe.

"He's a big dog, about a 150-pound Newfoundland, and how he got in there and pulled the curtain closed -- it's the smartest thing. I don't know what kind of training he had," joked firefighter Jerry Curtin.

Whatever it was, Jackson's training was textbook -- right out of the firefighter's manual. A common mantra says to duck below the smoke if you run out of oxygen and find fresh air wherever you can. Jackson was literally inside the bathtub, sucking the air out of the drainpipe, an "old school thing" that a firefighter would do.

What a CLEVER dog!

Dark Ages Policies

Oh, look. The appointee to the Health and Human Services post that oversees the programs responsible for reproductive heath, and the Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy testing, counseling, and std screenings, wants us all to go back to the Dark Ages, where sex is for procreation only, pregnancy is punishment for unmarried women, and contraception is unavailable, if not illegal.


Just what we need. Her primary qualifications for the position are...well, she's a Bush supporter. And she's staunchly, blindly, anti-contraception and "pro-life". Orr served as senior director for marriage and family care at the conservative Family Research Council and was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Her qualifications, such as they are, seem to be only that she shares the same religious view as the president does, and doesn't understand that her religious views are not, and should not be, policy.

Stating that "we're quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease", Orr supported a Bush proposal to eliminate coverage for birth control in insurance plans for federal employees.

Using that logic, pregnancy is apparently classified as a disease, since it's covered under the plans. Who knew? What about broken legs and lasik surgery?

Orr supports the Mexico City Policy, which cuts off funds to NGOs who provide information about or perform abortions in other nations. She gives it a nod because it proves that Bush is pro-life "in his heart".

She believes that the use of contraceptives is abortion, apparently. She has strongly criticized requirements that health plans cover contraception, because "it's about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death."

Really? Using a condom is "collaborating with the culture of death"? Huh.

Do we really need a religious extremist dealing with the very real, and very realistic problem of pregnancy and contraception and abortion in this country? Abstinence education enacted by the Bush Adminsitration has been a failure in nearly every sense, yet she strongly supports it as the only option. No abortions, no contraception...apparently her perfect world doesn't actually have people who a) every have sex without trying to get pregnant, b) don't want to be pregnant or c)have unintended pregnancies. Ever. Or, if they did, they are nasty people who deserve whatever happens to them. That idea - that women need to be punished for sex -- seems to be an undercurrent in a lot of the "pro-life"/anti-abortion rhetoric. What a twisted way to look at things.

It's not that I dont' support abstinence as an option. I do. But it's just ONE of the options out there. Abstinence is the best option to avoid pregnancy. Abstinence until you are in a committed relationship is something I wish more people would practice. But, we live inthe real world, where these rose-colored ideas just don't cut it. Abstinence-only education does not prevent kids from having sex. It just means that they are woefully uneducated about the risks out there. And what about adults who don't want to have children (either right now, or ever?) Orr's worldview doesn't account for those people, does it? I should note of course, that she isn't pushing to eliminate contraception, at least not explicitly. She just doesn't want to insurance to cover it or the HHS departments to encourage people to use it. Although that 'culture of death' comment is pretty damn telling, if you ask me.

Can anyone actually argue that the advent of effective birth control and family planning are bad things? I mean, seriously? Orr apparently would rather spout religious dogma and keep her head in the sand, avoiding all facts. Yeah, that's going to help.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Couch Option

I'm really liking this couch. It doesn't come as a loveseat, nor are there matching chairs, but I love the couch!
[photo from]

Strange and Funny

I have along history of absolutely loving strange television shows each season, which disappear after three or four episodes and I've been laughing hysterically through four episodes of The Big Bang Theory....I realize that only about 2% of the population will find it even remotely amusing. The rest will think it's squirmingly awkward and embarrassing, or just plain stupid, I'm sure.

I, however, find it so funny as to make it impossible for me to talk . The Adorable Husband just sort of chuckles while I sink into the couch cushions wheezing inarticulately. Take four uber-smart physicists affected with various forms of social awkwardness and tics, add a pretty waitress living across the hall and...well, I must know too many people just like this, so I find the whole thing too funny.

Which means it will survive for another episode or two and then be cancelled in favor of some bizarre reality show involving people living with orangutans or something.

However, if you deal with engineers, mathematicians, or scientists of any might find Sheldon and Leonard as funny as I do. You can watch all the episodes online at for free. Just click on videos and choose full episodes.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Visions of Sweeney Todd

Since Uulaq is getting used to the weasels, we've been letting them spend more and more time outside together. For awhile, we were worried that she'd try to eat them -- she seemed to do fine for a while, then she'd just snap and really go after them. It's perfectly fine for her to discipline them, even a bit harshly, but we draw the line at actually biting them until they shriek. But, now that they are big enough that they aren't such fast-moving targets, Uulaq seems to be happier and much more tolerant of their unceasing rudeness.

Also, I was reading over the weekend that about 99% of all "serious" fights occur when the humans are present -- which makes sense. Why fight to rise up a notch in the pack when you aren't impressing anyone with it? The chances that they'll squabble while we're home is still pretty small.

So, I let them all outside to run around and open one of the windows to listen for any snarking. The normal growls and barking -- and only a few serious snarks by Uulaq. I checked on them a few times, and they were all fine. More snarking, and I finally call them all inside.

The weasels have blood all over! I had a brief (breathlessly panicky) moment that Uulaq had actually caught one of them....then I realized that they're teething, and all the bloodspots were from the two of them playing in the backyard. One or the other lost a tooth and got a little too rambumction...hence the spots all over them.

Yikes. When I mentioned it to the Doggie Camp people, it was as if a lightbulb went off --"Yeah, we saw that on Thursday, we checked all the dogs, everyone was ok, we couldn't figure out what happened....". Apparently, a few of the other dogs turned up with blood spots from Rowan or Berit noshing on them.

At least Berit's fang finally fell out. It was hanging there, wiggling, making my knees go all woobly, for three days.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Redesign and Scandinavian Guilt

When we moved into this house four years ago, I immediately painted the living room and dining room a sort of plum color. I've always like the color, the den in the old house was almost the same color, and it complemented our enormous floral couch and other furniture very well.

The enormous floral couch that we've had for fifteen years. A fact that suddenly is making just a bit crazy and wanting to redo the living room. Now.

The color is just not making me happy. It did for many years, but I'm ready for a change. So, I dragged the Adorable Husband on a furniture hunting expedition (oh, how he loves to do that. Not!) to see if there was anything out there that appealed to me. I'm imagining darker walls (maybe bronze or tobacco coloered) and darker, less floral furniture. Black end-tables. Something completely different.

I actually found two couches that I really like, in a sort of bronzy-greenish and red paisley. Strangely enough, I found the same fabric on two different couches (one at AFW and one at Sofa Mart) and like both of them.

And now I'm having serious guilt about getting rid of our existing couch and chair.

Seriously. They're fifteen years old, but they are very nice furniture pieces. We paid a fortune for them, and there is nothing wrong with them that reupolstering wouldn't fix. We could recover the sofa and chair, do a bit of reorganization, and voila! new room. Except not. I called on the sofa and the rought over-the-phone estimate to recover it is about 2500, about a thousand for the chair (assuming I don't do what I always do, which is pick out the most expensive fabric in the place). The Husband just can't quite reconcile the idea of replacing a very nice, very expensive piece of furniture (albeit an old one) with a medium quality (or low, depending on your scale) set of furniture. I guess on one hand I agree with him, but I waaaaant new stuff.

It's good old Midwestern "it's perfectly good! there's nothing wrong with it!" guilt. If we had another use for the couch (a family room, or downstairs or something) then it would be ok to get a new one, but having to sell or otherwise dispose of the couch....that's just wrong. The Adorable Husband made some offhanded comment that I only wanted to redo the room because it was fun to get new stuff -- when I pointed out quite huffily that it had been fifteen years since we bought anything resembling living room furniture, he backed down pretty fast. He just hates the whole "picking furniture" process and only goes along with me under duress. He doesn't have any problem with the living room just as it is.

Except, of course, that we don't really have enough seating (or a proper arrangement) to actually have conversations in the living room with guests. Couch and chair along one wall, tv on the other wall. The Adorable Husband just wants to get two chairs to set across from them -- an arrangement I am definitely opposed to. So I want to get a couch, loveseat, chair, and ottoman in the room.

The only way that really works, of course, put the couch up against the wall with the big windows. This seems vaguly wrong to me, but I've been reassured that it's perfectly fine. We'd be able to have six people actually sit down and have a place to set a glass.

I have a friend (from Colorfaux Creations) coming to give me an estimate for Venetian Plaster on the walls of the dining room and possibly the living room (she likes the idea of bronze) and she'll offer some help with furniture arrangement.

So -- laugh along with me: wanting a different paint color may result in a new sofa/chair/loveseat, new end tables, new drapes, and much angst. Mock us.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Misfire Across the Bow

The American Family Association has fired the first salvo in the imaginary "War on Christmas".

From the latest AFA e-mail
Mrs. Fields has become the first company to ban Christmas from their products and promotion for this year.

When Diane H. of Michigan called Mrs. Fields and asked to speak with a supervisor in customer service about why they banned Christmas, the supervisor told Diane that they do not offer anything with Merry Christmas because they don't want to offend anyone.
The only problem is, they made the whole crisis up.

Mrs. Fields has never "banned" Christmas. They are not banning christmas this year. Their site has always shown christmas cookies (in the appropriate season) as it does now.

A whole lot of hoopla about "oooh! they put it back on their website because we made it public! " and how they "scrambled" in response to this expose! Lots of blog sites urging 'good christians' to boycott Mrs. Fields. Lots of smoke, but the fire isn't there, people. The corporation of Mrs. Fields did not even consider banning all things christmas.

If the AFA is so concerned that Christmas is being marginlized, maybe they should spend some time worrying about the bizarre and rather frightening commercialization of Christmas instead. I know very few people who celebrate the religious meaning of Christmas, instead it's an excuse to decorate, bake cookies, put up a tree, give presents, and otherwise celebrate (all traditions from other religions, btw). For many people, Christmas is a very important religious holiday, and they are free to celebrate it in any way the want to. But they're pretty thin-skinned if the fact that not everyone in the US is required to wish them Merry Christmas sends them into a tizzy.

Me? I'm not ready to start the whole holiday things yet. I find the insistent, pushy, and commercial forces of the holidays to be pretty wearing, myself. Walmart already has Christmas stuff out -- and on sale -- and vows to keep lowering prices until Christmas actually arrives. Our local Lowe's had trees and lights up in September. I'm already seeing pre-christmas sale ads. Well, if Christmas is simply a commercial holiday for consumer excess, I suppose that's fine. But to argue that a company who offers Happy Holidays is somehow "oppressing" Christians really is a specious argument -- and drives my tolerance for that sort of crap down pretty low.

But, it does rev up "the base" and get them all riled up about how the "others" are not respecting their beliefs and continues to feed into the idea that somehow, christianity is "threatened", so their crusade to gain more political and social power is successful.. I'm not seeing it. I don't want to live in the theocracy that the AFA apparently wants, and I have seen zero evidence that christians are being prevented from practicing their religion. They just can't make the rest of us practice it. How hard is that to understand?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


When I wrote last week that the puppies decided last week at class that they didn't know their own names, my MIL responded with a question about Berit's hearing.

I just wanted to assure everyone that her hearing is fine. She can hear the faintest crinkle of cellophane opening in the kitchen from 100 yards, she can hear footsteps across the culdesac, she can hear every teensy squeak and hum of the many natural gas wells nearby, even those a mile off. All of these things set her off barking like an idiot, too.

So no worries that she's got hearing problems, but now we have a barking problem. Rowan rarely barks, and only when he can actually see the other dog on the other side of the fence, for example. Berit, though, starts off with these little woofs when anything catches her attention, then escalates to full scale bark-like-the-sky-is-falling.

She's definitely the territorial one (Rowan apparently is confident enough in his domain over the yard that he doesn't see the need to run to the fence to defend it), but the barking is really going to be an issue. Our neighbors have a very noisy golden, too, and they just egg each other on.

We're considering one of those citrus-spray collars (although at midnight last night when she launched into a loud volley I was thinking one of those shock collars might be a good idea! Or at least make ME feel better) so we'll see. Even getting up next to her and touching her to distract her, telling her 'quiet', all just seem to give her a momentary pause, but then she forgets. Ah, well, she's still a puppy.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Who Rides the Short Bus?

We have totally changed our estimation of which puppy rides the short bus. Rowan is so laid back that we were sure he was a little...slow, you know? He just seems a little dopey all the time, and Berit is so much more active and alert and inquisitive.

Ok, yeah, active and alert and inquisitive, but apparently pretty dang stupid. We attended our first real obedience class (for puppies, still, but doing all the normal dog training stuff -- sit, stay, come, etc). Rowan did pretty well, but Berit revealed that she doesn't really even know her own name. Or, if she does, she is not deigning to respond to it at all. Stares off into space, wanders off, completely uninterested in doing anything remotely resembling paying attention.

Maybe she's ADD puppy. TOo much going on and she can't manage to focus on anything and forgets who she is. Hold a cheesy treat and she can sit like a champ, but doesn't seem to attach the word "SIT" to the action at all. Sigh. The Adorable Husband has a hard time, too, because his voice is so much lower than mine and we have a very different way of saying her name -- she sometimes responded to me when I said he rname, but seemed far more interested in the treats that the other people in class had. We have a LOT of work to do!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Real Estate Ad

This is ostensibly a real ad in a real paper for a real estate in (I think) Dubai. I want to believe it's a joke, but the scan looks legit.

Bad, Bad Buffalo

Interesting factoid:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo is a perfectly formed grammatical sentence.

Really. Once you know how it goes together, it actually makes sense. Buffalo is used as a noun (the animal), a verb (meaning to bully), and an adjective (Buffalo, a city in NY).

Can't quite figure it out? Check out the Wiki page explaining how this sentence is actually quite grammatically elegant. It took me quite a while to figure it out and I'm sure the Adorable Husband wanted to know why I was sitting at my desk saying the word "buffalo" over and over in different tones of voice.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Poor Tuckered-out Puppies

Once again, the magic of Camp Bow Wow has worked itself on the weasels and they are absolutely limp and snoring blissfully. I managed to get them into the car and they fell asleep immediately, and have only woken up enough to stagger outside once since we got home.

We're working on getting them to jump in and out of the car by themselves. They're plenty big enough, but the jump down is a bit daunting, I guess. Rowan stood in the back seat and cried and whined when we tried to get him to jump down. He'd put a paw on the sill, then retreat and whine, then bark when we didn't actually scoop him out of the back seat. It took about fifteen minutes before he worked up enough nerve to leap that whole 16" out of the car.

At Camp Bow Wow this morning? I'm glad that I had a leash on the wee beasties, since both of them launched themselves out of the car without a thought and ran to stand in front of the glass door, wagging madly. Camp is Fun!

Someone was thinking ahead...

Try to explain this away as a coincidence.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (NBC) -- When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit. The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush's surge.

1st Lt. Jon Anderson said he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill.

"It's pretty much a slap in the face," Anderson said. "I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership... once again failing the soldiers."

Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.

Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school. ...
Yup. 729 vs 730 days. Is that the normal way of handling a two-year deployment? Or did someone, somehwere figure out that they could massage the rules regarding deployment of National Guard troops overseas?

Either way, the "senior Washington leadership" should be ashamed.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mr. Sickie

Well, our grand plan to spread the horrible Fall Plague Flu to everyone has succeeded. The Adorable Husband has fallen ill and taken to his bed with lots of Kleenex and vitamin C. I think he may avoid the worst of it -- the barking seal cough that I still have after three weeks -- but he's staying home tomorrow to try to sleep it off.

This fall has been horrid for allergies and various "colds". Everyone has been sick, mostly with these hacking coughs. Makes me glad that I'm not working in an office, where we'd get to share these things all the time.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Each quarter, TUSC takes us out for some sort of "team-building" event, and this quarter found us in the Orchestra seating of Spamalot! -- the Monty Python silliness based on the cult-movie Holy Grail. It's a hoot, and we all enjoyed it -- being programmers, anything Pythonesque is part of our collective experience.

It was funny to see all the people who had never had any exposure to Python, or more specifically the movie. The rest of the audience would start chuckling when the scene was being set up and these poor people would be staring around, knowing they were missing something but not getting the in-jokes. The rest of us were laughing hysterically when the Killer Rabbit was being set up, or when the Black Knight showed up.

The whole show is a huge sendup of the whole "Broadway Show" genre, with some rather sly nods at Andrew Lloyd Weber's over-blown shows and the "showgirl" vibe throughout most of the show is pretty funny. THere is no way you could take the show seriously, and we all had a fabulous time.
But the best part? I got Killer Vorpal Bunny slippers! The ultimate bunny slipper, with big sharp fangy teeth. I can't wear them around the house if the weasels are around....they have taken it as their mission to KILL the fangy bunny slippers -- which snap alarmingly when I walk and send the weasels right around the bend!