Sunday, November 30, 2008

Made It!

This is just a post so I can do my celebration dance for having made it through NaBloPoMo . (Nobody really wants to see me doing my dance. It'd be a lot like watching the dance of some NFL lineman who recovers a fumble in the end zone - not pretty and not a sight for the weak of heart! But I am happy to have managed a post a day for the month of November.) 

It was actually kind of fun and I may do it again next year. The main impact on me was the occasional post done at 10pm rather than 2am just so it would be on the "right" day.

Back to the regularly scheduled football game ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blustery Saturday

Today the wind was howling and the weather was cool. Our compatriots to the northwest in Wyoming and to the west in the Colorado mountains got snow and ice, but no snow here. Just cool and blustery weather that made you wish it would get over its pique and just snow already.

For some reason I also couldn't get inspired by the football games on TV today. Maybe it was a sense of "I don't carism" for the dregs of what the BCS is becoming this year. Maybe it was just that none of the games involved a team near and dear to my heart. Maybe it is just sadness that my alma mater had a perfectly disastrous season this year - they went 0 for. They got beat by every team they played. You have to understand that during my youthful years we were often 11-0 and vied for the Lambert Trophy for football supremacy in the east. Now, ... I hope that the current coach (who was a player during my last year) can bring the program back to its former levels.

Maybe my blahs for today are due to the fact that my lovely wife will be leaving early tomorrow and I'll be batching it again. On a strange note, she will be back next Friday because she has a jury summons for ... wait for it ... municipal court for next Friday. Just to be clear - I didn't do it. The municipal judge may indeed be one of only three direct employees of the Mayor and City Council, but I have nothing to do with jury selection. (For the curious, the direct employees of the Mayor/City Council are the municipal judge, the city attorney, and the city manager. All other city employees are indirect and report officially through chains headed by the aforementioned three.)

Oh well - time to go see if there is more of the Thanksgiving pie hiding out in the refrigerator. And maybe the Oklahoma versus Oklahoma State game will heat up a bit more.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What's a nerd to do?

So what does a died-in-the-wool nerd do on a day like today. Well ...

I spent time with my spouse. It is so nice to have her home for a few days. Nothing can compare with that, but I won't let it stop me from boring you with the rest of my day.

I watched a bit of the CU versus Nebraska football game. Interesting to say the least, even if Nebraska did win. Out here in the part of Colorado known to some as the armpit of Nebraska, the division is probably 60/40 for CU over Nebraska, so some people we a bit unhappy at the ending.

Journeyed down to the church. This evening was Cocoa with Santa. The youth room in the church is decorated as a north pole fantasy with a live Santa to give a small gift bag to every child. Out in the kitchen they had pie and homemade cookies and cocoa and coffee and gingerbread cake with whipped cream for all to indulge in. My better half convinced me to have some coffee while she snarfed sampled the cookies. Got a chance to visit and watch the kids in line as they waited for Santa. The church gets 300-400 kids every year for the event (and probably twice as many adults).

Visited the phone store to investigate the options for our son. He's tied up working in the mountains over the college break and wanted us to check on changing his phone since his current one is on it's last legs. Of course it involves an upgrade in capability and service, just by chance.

Went shopping and spent longer in line waiting to check out than shopping. Makes one wonder why stores can't plan ahead a bit and have enough cashiers on hand for high volume days. Some people abandoned their prospective purchases and left. $$$ out the door if you are a retailer.

And finally the real reason I'm a nerd - I spent most of the day re-writing my backup software for the network here at the house. After upgrading the servers to the latest and greatest Solaris and moving to ZFS based file systems and adding in a few different windows platforms, my old backup software based on ufsdump/ufsrestore just wasn't an option anymore. It isn't a lot of data since the disk farm is less than .5TB, but I like to keep it all backed up to the tape library with copies transported off site for safety. You wouldn't believe the number of times my mania for backups has saved the rear-most portion of my anatomy. I'm getting too old for rear-end-ectomy, so I just do the backups. Time to return to watching the tapes cycle through the tape library robotic loader - excitement beyond belief!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Turkey is Dead

Yet another brutal day of turkey and diet massacre is over. All that is left is our friend on the right and he ain't talking.

Read the Urban Dictionary for an alternative definition of dead turkey.You'll have to read it to believe it. Go ahead - I'll wait.

Are you truly grossed out now? Good - my work here is done.

Back to sleep off the turkey that now stuffs me (as opposed to turkey stuffing?).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Traditions

Everyone has their own special traditions for Thanksgiving. Some are family traditions, some are historical, and some are just plain odd. I happen to have both a traditional family one and and odd one.

The family one is pretty standard - we gather to overeat, maybe watch some football, maybe play some cards, and generally just chill and relax. With both Mother and Mother-in-Law here in town, it generally means venturing to one of their homes for the day. Once in a while it has been at our place, especially while our son was still at home. In a few more years I suspect it will be here once again. But for now it means venturing the *huge* distance to their houses. (8-12 blocks max - that *huge* was sarcasm just in case you are humor impaired.)

My odd tradition is one begun amidst a group of my friends a number of years ago. It at first started as a joke and then grew into a tradition. Every Thanksgiving day, we gather on the golf course and play a game of cross country golf. Our rules are pretty simple. Each person stands on a tee box and calls the green and the par for the upcoming hole. I.e. I might be on the first tee and declare the hole to be a par 8 to the 3rd green. After that "hole", the next person does the same until all of the group have called a hole. Given that the weather is typically in the teens and about half the time there is snow and ice on the ground, the golf is not the object of the game. The real objective is a chance for us to enjoy some comraderie and exercise (this is a walking event) before we adjourn to our respective traditional Thanksgiving celebrations.

It started when several of my friends' sons were in high school. They are now approaching thirty and make it a point each year to play Thanksgiving cross country golf. In some cases I suspect that the golf tradition is more important than the meal. For at least some of them, it is the only time during the year they even pick up a club. Over the years we have gained several other players, including some out of town guests that now make the journey to play.

One year it was in the 70's, one year it was -4. Makes no difference, we just tend to call shorter holes to make up for the bundles of clothes and gloves we have on. Some years we have to pick a post or tree as the hole and declare the ball in if we get within a few feet. That happens when the snow and ice have buried the greens. Needless to say, this is a game where many balls are lost.

It is strange to contemplate this odd Thanksgiving tradition, but we enjoy it none the less. So what is your odd Thanksgiving tradition?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Yet Another Tuesday. We had a city council meeting tonight, a regular session as opposed to a work session. Once again attendance was sparse - just the press and city employees in the audience. No, I take that back, a representative of the Ministerial Alliance was there to present the invocation, but then he left before we got past the Pledge of Allegiance .

And now to expose how oddly my mind works, mentioning the Pledge of Allegiance brought forth the full power of trivia. One of the questions in the Trivia Contest was "What did Francis Bellamy write for the quadricentennial celebration of Columbus Day in 1892?" Admittedly, this stumped most of the teams (ours included). Have you guessed with the extra context of the first paragraph? That's right, Francis Bellamy penned the original Pledge of Allegiance we all recited through out grade school (and before every city council meeting here). Now that this bit of trivia has been embedded in my mind, I'll probably never forget it.

The interesting part is the background and the revisions the pledge has undergone. The original pledge, published in 1892, read
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
with the (to) added in October of 1892. Mr. Bellamy had originally thought about including the word equality along with liberty and justice, but he realized that at the time the school superintendents were dead set against racial and sexual equality.

The back story here is that in 1892 Francis Bellamy was chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education as a part of the National Education Association .  That is why he was writing the Pledge in the first place. Isn't interesting how the battle for equal rights coming in the next century was already apparent in the half century following the civil war. It is painful to see how the rights of women were lumped with the rights of Negroes and denied without thought.

The American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution led a charge to change the wording at the 1923 and 1924 National Flag Conference . They changed the Pledge's words, 'my Flag,' to 'the Flag of the United States of America.'  Bellamy was still alive at the time and disliked the change, going so far as to protest against it. He was ignored.

In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus , added the words, 'under God,' to the Pledge. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Francis Bellamy had died in 1931. So no one knows what his feelings may have been about the change.

Now some 116 years after the original was written, we recite the modified version:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I don't know, which version do you like the best?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight (not the movie)

Today Molly and I got out for our walk a bit earlier than normal. We were in time to enjoy the twilight during much of the walk. At this latitude, the sun falls behind the single story houses to the west of the park at about 4:10pm this time of the year. That leaves the time from then until sunset at about 4:30pm in twilight, where there is a lot of backlight from the sky and ground scatter, but no direct illumination. Tall buildings like the grain elevator in the distance get that golden glow during this time of day. Any dust in the air is emphasized and turns reddish as the hour approaches sunset.

I personally like the twilight. In summer, it happens as late as 9:30pm and signals the beginning of the days cooling off out here on the plains. In fall, it reminds me that winter is on its way. There is a bleakness of the bare trees and the indirect light that foreshadows the coming of winter. In winter, the increasing lateness of the occurrence with the lengthening of the day brings hope for the revival to come. In spring, the backlighting emphasizes the coming of the buds and leaves on the trees. So the nature and timing of the twilight is another cue to the changing of the seasons, another clue that like is cyclic.

Given that it is pitch dark around here by 5:30pm at this time of year and will be dark by 4pm or so on the shortest day of the year here, twilight is a gift. (You do remember that Dec. 22 is the shortest day of the year don't you?) I know that my friends who suffer from SAD find the twilight depressing, Whether this is a conditioned response to the coming of winter or an actual reaction to the light is an open question. So do you enjoy the twilight? Or are you already hiding inside with the lights on? Planning on sitting in extra light to avoid the depression?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rant #1

Do you ever wonder about all the things we no longer fix or repair because it is not "cost effective"? Or the services that have disappeared because there is no demand? I do.

Intellectually, I understand the economics of manufacturing things that cannot be repaired. After all, it you are making a few million of something, and it costs an additional $5-10 to make each one if you design and manufacture it so that it is repairable, you will loose $10-30 million potential dollars. Not to mention the questions of reliability, etc. But emotionally, ...

 I can remember when TV/Radio repair shops were common and those items were repaired when they quit working. Now? Not so much. Talk to an automobile mechanic about major repairs to engines and you'll find the same trend to whole unit replacement that eventually lead to the demise of the TV/Radio repair shop. If the cost of labor and parts to repair is more than the cost of replacement (12 hours of labor + $200 in parts >> 2 hours of labor + $500 in parts), replacement it is. It is not long after this point is reached that the ability to even get the parts for repair disappears. After all, none of us wants to pay any more than we have to to fix anything. And if the thing in question is on a downward price curve, it makes more and more sense to upgrade rather than repair.

I worry about what we as a society are losing in the mix as repair becomes replacement. I cannot overestimate the number of my colleges in the technical fields who grew and nurtured their interest in the field by tinkering. The ability to reverse engineer and perhaps create alternative function  from old items was a keystone in their development of an interest in science and the scientific method. The reward of making something work that hadn't worked before led to learning the theory behind the operation and the science of the thing .

As an example, I grew up playing with old TV's and radios. I learned how to repair some of them, cobble several of them together into one working unit, and sometimes adapt the remaining carcass to some entirely new function. You'd be amazed what a high voltage section from a TV, an old neon sign transformer, and a few other parts can become in the tinkering mind of a teenager. It was how I built my first laser, explored electromagnetic induction as a means of propulsion, built bug zappers, etc. Now with one piece custom chips and other advances, there is nothing for the budding tinkerer to play with when the appliance quits working. There is nothing to be repaired because replacement is generally the one fix. And even that is often not possible because after a few years, you cannot find those custom chips,  It is not in the interest of the manufacturer to have more of them on hand than needed to ship the product. It is often economically saner to just ship another new unit than to even waste the time diagnosing the problem. How many of you have had the experience of buying a relatively high ticket item and having the manufacturer replace it with a different model when it fails under warranty? Quote unquote because the parts are no longer available?

My concern is that young people today do not get the same chance to tinker and explore. I know that some organizations are convinced that the lack of such experiences are behind the shortages in several technical fields. Some kids have adopted to tinkering with computers, but the feel and intellectual stimulation is different. And one major difference is that instead of learning science and the scientific method, they are often learning the artificial logic of a non-real universe. I.e. one designed by a game designer where the normal constraints of reality are relaxed or removed in their entirety.

Given that change in experience, moving from the hard rules of reality to the malleable and often whimsical rules of the computer or game, the ability to discern fact from fiction is declining. The young people I talk to have a hard time applying common sense and experience to determine the plausibility of any given statement. It leads to what I refer to as "tabloid science", where a claim in violation of scientific fact is made. And they believe it because they have no basis to rationally determine the plausibility of the claim. The effect is even more pernicious than it first appears, because with experience of the warped and arbitrary logic often shown in gaming and fantasy worlds, they have lost the ability to logically deduce consequences from posited truths. Without that ability, they cannot reason the consequences of the tabloid claim and then test those consequences. Scientific method - not in this group.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We Won!

We won the trivia contest again. This year the format was adjusted a bit and the questions were divided into nine categories. The categories were:
  • General Knowledge
  • Music
  • Geography
  • Literature
  • Sports & Leisure
  • Movies
  • History
  • TV
  • Science
We did well in most categories and were perfect in Literature, Movies, and Science. TV came close to smoking our posteriors. Nothing like none of us having a clue. The team this year was the same as last year, so we had a CPA, a lawyer, a surgeon, a retired librarian, the young guy, and myself. Not a one of us watches TV other than for some sports or old movies. So when one of the questions was "What was the name of the coffee shop the characters in Friends often visited?", we shared the blank look. We couldn't even think of a good crowd pleaser for an answer. (The answer was "Central Perk".)

It was a close battle this year. A new team (The Cracker Jacks) from a small town about 40 miles to south of here was in the competition for the first time and they came on strong to tie us at the end of regulation. It was the first tie in the history of the event at the end of regulation. So the moderator finally got a chance to ask his tie breaking questions. He had had them sealed in his Funk and Wagonall's Mayo jar for at least 8 years. Our team and the other team both got the first three tie breakers correct. The tie breaking questions included such tidbits as:
  • What is the shortest verse in the King James translation of the Bible? ("Jesus wept")
  • What are the colors of the three rooms on the first floor of the White House? (Red, Blue, Green)
  • If a plane travels 300 yds in 10 seconds, how many feet will it travel in 1/5 of a second? (18)
  • What were the names of the seven original Mercury Astronauts? (Glenn, Grissom, Shepard, Carpenter, Slayton, Schirra, and Cooper)
When the final tie breaking question "What were the names of all seven original Mercury program astronauts?" was asked, we scribbled like mad on our answer pad. We came up with all but Schirra . We could not for the life of us think of who the seventh astronaut was. We finally guessed Young, but that was wrong as he was a Gemini and later astronaut. Fortunately for us, the other team could only come up with 5 names to our 6, so we won! Yea us!

On the "crowd pleasing" side, one of the better answers was given to the question "Who is Angelina Jolie's Oscar winning father?" (Jon Voight) One of the teams who was stumped supplied the answer "Shrek".

On the "stump people" side, the best question was "What is the name of the one state whose name does not appear in the name of a university? I.e. there is the University of Colorado and the University of Hawaii and ... Which state isn't in that list?" I don't think anyone got that one correct. (New Jersey - Rutgers is the State University of New Jersey)

All in all a fun evening. This year there were several new teams, including one organized by my grand-niece composed of seventh graders. I say grand-niece because she refers to me as uncle XXX, but the real relationship is that her mother is my cousin. It made me glad to see the new blood participating this year - there were 19 or 20 teams and all the entry fees go towards supporting Community Caring Hands.

By the way, just in case you wondered, CCH was originally founded to be a part of Habitat for Humanity, but we were too short on population out here to qualify for a chapter. Thus CCH was born to carry on the work out here in the rural boonies.

So once more our names will be engraved on the trophy and we'll be able to show it off for the next year. Well maybe rub it in people's faces, but you didn't hear that here ...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Trivia Contest

This weekend is the Community Caring Hands Trivia Bowl. It is one of the more fun charity events to support the local CCH group. For those who aren't familiar with CCH, they are a non-profit which does services for the elderly and poor in the community such as window repair and handicapped ramps and ... Basically home improvements and repair for those who can't do them without help.

The Trivia Bowl was started by a faculty group from the local community college many moons ago. It grew from a game they played over the lunch hour that is much akin to a team version of Trivial Pursuit. The way the local version works is that you get together a 4-6 person team, enter, and have fun.  Each team is assigned a table in the Elks Ballroom. A local retired faculty member and author of many trivia books is the Moderator. The normal flow is:

  • Moderator asks a question
  • Moderator starts the 60 second clock
  • Your team writes its answer on a slip of paper
  • Clock expires and the slips of paper are collected by the runners
  • Runners give the slips to the panel of judges
  • Your team is awarded a point for each correct answer

The winner is the team with the most points after all 6-8 categories of human knowledge have been exhausted.
What makes the event fun is that every one is heckling everyone else between questions and there is food and drink for all teams. Not to mention the audience in the galleries is hooting and hollering, especially when the judges announce a particularly inane answer to the crowd. You score crowd points but no game points by making up a Rube Goldberg style answer to any question you have no clue about.

Needless to say, it is a couple of hours of fun. Teams spend a lot of time visiting and talking between rounds, so it is a social event as well as a trivia contest. Teams seem to persist for years as a team. The team I am on has been competing for some years now with changes in personnel when schedules prevent some of us from participating. Our leader is an old high school classmate and former CPA. He is a bit obsessive, to the point of analyzing any question we missed in the previous year, etc. Another of our team is local lawyer who was also a high school classmate. Finally, to round out the core of our team, we have a youngster (he might be 27 by now) so that we can cover the youth trend questions. Some years we add a local surgeon or doctor or teacher or movie writer or ... It all depends on who we can recruit.

We usually get a rousing round of boos at the start of the contest as the teams are announced - both because I am the mayor and because we have been the champions 3 out of the last 4 years. (We were sub-par one year and lost to the local community college faculty team. *gasp*) Most years there are 120 questions divided into 6 categories. We usually end up getting 110-115 correct. Second place is usually around 105-110 correct and then there always seems to be a gap before a cluster of other teams. But the real fun is the ones where you have no clue and so can go for the crowd points.

So think of me tomorrow night as I trivialize my way down the road ... I'll try to remember a few good questions and put them up here after the contest.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good Friends

Yesterday, with the downer of the upchucking dog and other such wonders that one hopes to forget, was a wart on the toad of life. Except! Except that a good friend that I haven't spent much time with in the last month called and said let's go out to eat. Sort of like a lifeline to save the week. And so we did indeed go out for Chinese this evening and it was good.

It is all too easy to lose the connection with friends in the hassles of day to day life. Just being able to sit down with my friend and his SO and enjoy the conversation on a breadth of topics was so relaxing and uplifting. Given that I live the bachelor life during the week (well, I don't *think* the Molly the dog can be considered my mistress in *that* sense), I have a tendency to  withdraw into my computers. The day to day tasks as mayor keep me out and about, sometimes to the limits of my sociability and beyond, but do not do anything to assuage that deep need that true friendship satisfies. It's sort of like an itch you didn't know you had until after you scratched it. And then it feels so good you cannot figure out why you didn't scratch it long ago. It was that kind of a relaxing evening. I hope you all remember to scratch your itches in a timely manner.

Here's to good friends who remember to scratch your itch even when you haven't realized it needed scratched!

(I don't know who to credit for this picture. If you know, leave a comment.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yet Another Wednesday

Today began with Molly the dog upchucking all over the carpet and went downhill from there.

 Meetings most of the day and now I'm toast.

I guess I'll just have to make tomorrow better. Even if the cold front is moving in and it is supposed to be cold and icy tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I remember when ...

(This is a post for Mama Kat's challenge .)

I remember when ... I registered my first domain name. It was the pre-historic stone age of the internet. In fact, at the time there was no internet. A small group of universities had begun experimenting with a thing called DARPA net, but there was very little connectivity and nothing but DARPA related usage. Machines that communicated at all used a store and forward dial-up network based on the uucp protocol to exchange email. If you were lucky, fast links exceeded 110 baud up to 300 baud. The dinosaur phone companies still monopolized the earth. Some of us even took to wearing animal furs as a step up from the fig leaves then in vogue. {*grin*}

Seriously, there was no network, browsers were a distant gleam and the PC had not yet been been invented. I wanted to exchange email with some colleagues via the store and forward uucp network that was just starting out and thus needed a domain name to specify my address. So I ponied up the 20 cents for postage stamp and mailed an application to domain registry (no commercial registrars yet) and a few weeks later got a letter authorizing my use of the domain name in perpetuity. No fees and no renewal.  I convinced the IT department at my employer to let me use a modem to connect to their machine as my local store point and let them forward it late at night via their phone line. So I was emailing happily in the stone-age.

Several years later, networking cards became available and local networks started to become common (still no internet). At that time I contacted the predecessor to ARIN and asked for some network numbers (IP addresses in modern lingo). They assigned me a Class C block that I still use today. At the time, there was no hint of a future value for the numbers nor was there a fear of running out of numbers. Today the impending shortage of numbers is driving the move to IPv6 . Back then, if you requested a lowly class C, it was granted. (Class C - 2^8 addresses) If you wanted a bigger Class B (2^16 addresses), you had to supply a justification letter. If you wanted a full class A block (2^24 addresses), you actually had to have a proposed use. Today you have to justify, show utilization, and pay a rather large fee every year. Even so, the chances are good you could not get a Class A address today under any circumstance.

To bring this journey into the past to a conclusion, I sold that original domain name in the early 90's when a couple of companies who share my last name got involved in a bidding war to acquire the domain. Once it reached a certain price, my response was simple - "Give me your best bid and the highest bidder gets it." Needless to say, that was the best investment I ever made in my life. Somewhere on the order of 25,000% growth a year. It also made me real glad my last name wasn't Smith. {*grin*}

Monday, November 17, 2008

Colorado Children's Campaign

Today the Colorado Children's Campaign was in town and talking to political and educational leaders today. For those not familiar with the organization, a visit to Colorado Children's Campaign is informative. They are part of a national organization that looks at ways to improve the lot of children and lobbies on children's issues. Their research suggests that one of the strongest correlations for the abscense of a bright future is to grow up under the poverty line. Poverty is correlated with higher assault and crime rates, lower IQ, lower academic performance, emotion problems, etc. The number of children growing up in poverty is a pressing issue in Colorado because the number of children living in poverty has been rising for the last several years. This bucks the national trend which has remained at a constant percentage of all children. Colorado still has a lower overall percentage than the national average, but that difference is in danger of disappearing in the new few years if the current trends continue. In fact, Colorado has the fastest rate of increase in the number of children living in poverty in the United States.

So with that background, the organization has been visiting rural areas with a two fold purpose: make people aware of the problems of children that are generally associated with poverty and to find out why rural areas buck the trends of poverty as a determinant. In particular, rural areas tend have the same or higher percentages of children living at or under the poverty level, but don't have the negative outcomes associated in other areas with poverty. I.e., the kids may be poor, but they are doing well on standardized tests, graduating high school at high rates, not exhibiting the crime and violence issues found in other areas, etc. Early prenatal care and other measures of poverty buck the trends out here in the northeastern plains as well - some counties here having 100% early prenatal care of poverty level mothers as opposed to the 20-30% in urban areas.

The reason this is interesting to the Colorado Children's Campaign is that they hope to find out what is different in areas where poverty is not the detriment it is in other areas. I.e. to find out what progams can be effective in battling the curse of poverty. This is a very real recognition on the organizations part that they are not going to be able to eliminate poverty any time soon, so what can they and we do so that it hurts the future the least. Other states have tackled the poverty issue in various ways, but the question is what will work here. The program is just beginning to do the research, but I am encouraged by the fact they are looking for the other factors. They have already done an appreciable amount of work in showing the poverty problem is not due to issues like immigration and migration, etc. It is encouraging to see a social issue organization that is non-partisan and pursuses real research into the best measures to ameliorate the problem. I only wish there were more like them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Boom and Bust

Here Comes Another Bubble lyrics sent by guest

I just had to put this in here after a colleague from Sun sent me a pointer to it. Sort of sums up the boom/bust cycle in the software industry and the implicit ageism in much of the industry.

Take a look and listen and see if you don't find it on point. And if you don't laugh, you too must be involved in the software industry (or else you were in oil in the 80's or ...)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Seasonal Drear

Today is one of those dreary late fall days when the weather can't decide if it wants to be winter or fall. The sun was hidden and the breeze was just enough to make it feel cool. The lonely retreating feeling of the world at this time of year coupled with the change back to standard time makes the days feel miserable and short. At least I have the honor of knowing that I m not alone in feeling this way. Molly and I saw no one out walking when we went to the park late in the afternoon. Most days we see an assortment of people when we mosey out for our trek. I guess they were all buried inside bemoaning the drear of the day.

Having lived where there were minimal or no seasons (hot and not-so-hot or sunny/rainy don't count as seasons), I prefer the seasonal change of Colorado. There is something about the renewal of spring with its explosion of green, the days of summer when daylight lasts forever and the nights are warm, the crystalline beauty of winter when the imperfections of the earth are periodically buried in white, and even the early part of fall when the leaves are changing and the harvest is ending. However, I could live without parts of all those seasons. I don't like the mud season of April when the rains come and the mud sits, I don't care for the drear days of November and early December when fall is kicking its last. I could happily avoid the couple of weeks in January or February when temperatures fall below zero and stay there for days at a time. And I could happily miss the days of late August when the temperature can hit 110+ during the day. But overall, I'll live with the parts I don't like to enjoy the parts I love.

I guess I'll just have to hope it is a sunny day tomorrow and make the most of it. Time to curl up with a good book for the evening and escape to a different world.

Friday, November 14, 2008

On the Other Hand

I had to appear early this morning for a teleconference about some emergency preparation stuff and had a chance to visit with the local community college president while we waited for the conference to start. He was also in attendance at the play last night. Given my quasi-review of David Ives ' All in the Timing of yesterday, I thought some of you might be interested in his reaction to the production.

He was able to give a different prospective since he had his grade/middle school aged son and daughter with him last night. His first comment was that although he was sure a lot of the literary, scientific, and mathematical references went right by them, they still thought it was a funny. They just interpreted the humor on a different level. For example, they took the ice axe stuck in the head of Trotsky as sight gag - and thought it was funny. I suspect that may be the mark of a good playwright - he/she can entertain and get the message across to a wide range of audience backgrounds. It is a skill I have often admired but seldom evinced.

The president himself had a similar reaction to the play as I did. He
*knew* there was something he should remember about Trotsky's death, but couldn't quite connect it in his mind. He was planning to look up the details this morning after our teleconference. I pointed him to the Time article and left it at that. We'll see what he has to say on Monday since I have another meeting he will be at then.

On the other hand, he was completely taken aback by one of the actors in the production. He has the actor in a philosophy class he is teaching this term. (He decided to teach a class this term just to be sure he had a handle on the issues his faculty face day-to-day.) He said "the young man has never said a word in class discussions and even one on one, getting him to talk is like pulling eye-teeth." Thus he was shocked to discover this young man starring as Trotsky in 
"Variations on the Death of Trotsky and as Alan in "The Philadelphia ". Both very outgoing, voluble, and extroverted roles. It yielded a completely different view of the young man's personality and abilities.

Other than that the day was one of usual hassles. It was a good day to be inside since the
NWS Wind Warning was in effect again. I'm convinced that there must have been a change in policy, they didn't use to issue warnings for 40-50 mph winds. The cold front dropping in from the north was evidently in a hurry. My own view is that it could have detoured to Nebraska and I would not have been disappointed. At least it is supposed to be back into the 50's by Sunday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ars Dramatica

Tonight, I attended the local community college production of David Ives ' All in the Timing. Since my wife was in the other community , my mother was my guest. (She did a bit of theater in this self-same college more years ago than anyone wants to admit.) For those who aren't familiar with the Ives' work, it is a four part, minimal scenery, Kafkaesque comedy affair. It counts on the audience being very literate in readings from science and the arts and history in places - so of course I loved it. The new Theater Director of the college got it right when he said "...I feel that a blustery November in Colorado calls for a lighter tone of entertainment."

The first skit, "
Words,  Words, Words " is based on statistics and probability.  It features three "monkeys" in a college lab earning their keep by trying to type Shakespeare's Hamlet in less than an infinite amount of time. Needless to say the "monkeys" feel a bit of stress when they realize that it will take them longer than the current age of the universe to stand an even chance of success.

The next skit was one of my favorites, "
The Philadelphia ". It is based on the idea of metaphysical black holes in reality called "Philadelphias" where it is impossible to get what you ask for. In fact you have to ask for the opposite of what you want. The kicker is that some people are better at living in a "Philadelphia" than they are in the normal reality.

The third skit clearly appealed to the college students in the audience. It is called "
Sure Thing " and is about a boy and girl  in a cafe undergoing that painful first meeting. The hook is that they each have a bell they ring to restart the conversation when it reaches a dead end or goes a direction unacceptable to one or the other. The end result is finally negotiating the conversation to a first "date".

The final skit was my personal favorite. Called "
Variations on the Death of Trotsky ", it shows us the revolutionary on the day of his demise trying to cope with a mountain climber's axe he has discovered smashed in his skull. He goes through several explanations and reasons and denials for the axe while his wife keeps reading aloud from the current encyclopedia article that he died on this day (August 21, 1940) of an ice axe smashed into his head. Not buried, but smashed.

The inside joke here is that the skit is actually less odd than the real death of Trotsky on August 21, 1940. He was indeed smashed in the head with an ice axe on the 20th and lingered talking and carrying on until the 21st. In fact, according to the report in 
Time Magazine in 1940, he yelled to his body guards "Don't kill him. This man has a story to tell." as they subdued his assailant. Ever the historian, Trotsky later in the evening said to Natalie Sedova (his wife) about what had happened to him during the assassination attempt "I feel here," said Trotsky, pointing to his heart, "that this time they have succeeded."

As Time Magazine reported 
Although his skull was fractured and his brain pierced, although paralysis was already creeping down his left side, Leon Trotsky clung to consciousness. In a Green Cross hospital he dictated to Hansen a clear-minded statement:
I am close to death from the blow of a political assassin, who struck me in my room. I struggled with him. He had entered the room to talk about French statistics. He struck me. Please say to our friends: I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International. Go Forward!

Sometimes theater is stranger that reality, but this time reality was even stranger! And if I hadn't put in the links to the Time article, I'm sure you'd all think I was making this up to!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday'ish Wednesdays

Why did today feel like a Monday all day? It just had that feel. Started off cool and damp from the melt of yesterdays snow flurry. Then warmed up and turned a bit windy. For some reason it just felt like a Monday all day long.

The walk down to the radio station for the weekly show was uneventful and the report of yesterdays council meeting was short and to the point. Only a few items on the agenda. The trivia question was surprisingly hard for people to guess in spite of the numerous hints we gave. The question was: "10% of men have never done this, what is it?" The answer is in the first comment.

This afternoon was a disaster of sorts. I had an abrasion on my leg start bleeding again and it wouldn't stop so I could put on long pants to go to a meeting. Nothing like a little squishy blood in your sock to make the day complete! It was just a little nick, but it had that annoying drip ... drip ... drip persistence at a time when I was already in a hurry.

In other news, I finally got my wife's old laptop at least partially resurrected from the dead. Even as I write this, the poor beast is doing a backup of all it's contents to one of my servers. That way if it heads to the land of the dead again, we'll at least have all the information from it in an accessible form. I suspect that it is more than just one problem with this machine, so the current revival may not be one for the long run. I had forgotten just how painful Windows 98 was to work with and network. Guess I have just gotten to used to XP, Linux, and Solaris. It did remind of the old days of Windows 95 and even {*gasp*} Windows 3.x. I may actually be one of the few people willing to admit that saw and even attempted to use a copy of Windows 1.x back in the 80's. Now that really lets you know you're getting old.

Off to prepare for my chance to be a pundit tomorrow. What *will be* the implications of the elections results. It will be interesting because this area is one of the few in Colorado that voted overwhelmingly for McCain and Schaeffer. Almost everywhere else went for the Democratic candidates of Obama and Udall. (It is amusing that blogger's spell checker thinks Obama is wrong, but has no suggestions of a better word. Is blogger a closet Republican?) Ta-ta.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Given that I am a science wonk and computer nerd, I couldn't resist using an acronym for my title. Just in case you wonder, Yet Another Veteran's Day (YAVD). It was a bit strange to see city employees out and about as I went to the store this morning. The city takes Veteran's Day as a holiday, but there aren't a lot of other businesses that do so.

I was out and about today for my delayed dental appointment . Looks like I will be getting a crown put on the broken tooth. Not too surprising given that the tooth had a filling so old that the tooth enamel was eroding around it. One of the hazards of getting older. Unfortunately, over the next few years there are several other teeth that will probably reach the same state.

In line with being a computer nerd, I find the technology of dentistry amusing. First there were the computers in every examining room and electronic practice management tools, then there were digital x-rays shown on the computer and filed electronically with the patients records, and finally the fiber optic "in the mouth" camera to show what is going on and the problem areas. It gives the dentist a chance to see things from a different angle and the patient a chance to understand what the dentist is talking about. How long before they have one attached to all the instruments? How long after that before robots akin to the surgical robots now coming into use start doing the actual dentistry? Enough about the foibles of dentistry and teeth.

There is a city council meeting tonight in spite of it being a city holiday. The scheduling question came before the council several weeks ago as we could move the meeting forward or back a day, but the decision was made to hold the meeting on Tuesday as normal. We made the decision in an interesting manner - we asked the veteran's on the council their desire and they were unanimously in favor of holding the meeting as regularly scheduled. There was a general feeling that democratic government was one of the reasons veterans had served. So we will honor their wishes on the day that we honor them.

Off to the meeting I go ...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Abuse of the System

I don't know about you, but I tend to keep an eye on the technical news. Every once in a while, something passes by that I have a hard time believing. Today is one of those days. Of course, it involves everyone's second most favorite villain (only because Microsoft won that race long ago). Without further ado, I give you the Halliburton of the day as reported in Slashdot :

Halliburton, the company many folks know as Dick Cheney's previous employer, has apparently taken an interest in methods of patent trolling. In fact, according to Techdirt, the company has applied for a patent on patent trolling. Specifically, it's applied for a patent on the process of finding a company that protected an invention via trade secret, figuring out what that secret is, patenting it ... and then suing the original company.

So there you have it. A patent designed to raid other people's patentable stuff and then legally rape them with their own tools. What I have begun referring to as a Halliburton.

I have been through the process of applying for a "process" patent. I cannot believe this kind of abuse of the patent system will acceptable to the intellectual property community. The USPTO may very well grant the patent, but I hope that the legal battles involved in enforcement would favor the original trade secret organization. I understand that protection of an invention via trade secret is open to loss by disclosure. Not only losing the crown jewel, but having to pay royalties to a raider who used this process for using your own crown jewel just seems wrong.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The XXX Effect

My wife and I often joke about the XXX effect (where XXX is our last name). For years, it has seemed that we can arrive at any store or event and the premises are nearly deserted. But, and this is a big but, within seconds of our arrival there is a crowd and or line behind us. Thus the XXX effect is where we arrive and the crowds follow. Given that we have a rather common last name, it could be cited as an instance of keeping up with the XXX's.

There is a second more ominous XXX effect that seems to follow us as well. If an important event in our life happens in a building, the building is not long for this world. For example, the hospital where I was born was torn down and the site is now an apartment building,  the grade school I attended was torn down years ago and city hall now sits on the property, the school I attended for junior high was torn down and the site is now occupied by an industrial building, the chapel of the church where we were married burned down shortly after our ceremony, etc. The list goes on and on. We tell people not to suggest that we have any important event in their building. After all you know what could happen.

All the cited instances of XXX effects are examples of the coincidence effect in action. You will note that my narrative left out all the events that didn't fall into the pattern I expostulated. The coincidence effect is also known as subjective validation . Stripped of some of the psychobabble, it simply means that one's personal beliefs lead to the attribution of a relationship between two or more events even when careful scientific examination shows no relationship.

Much so called "paranormal phenomena" is the result of such attribution. I have often felt bad for serious psychoscientists because they invariably get cornered by people convinced that subjective validation has disclosed the secrets of the universe to them. It can be very hard to change a persons beliefs, even in the face of hard evidence to the contrary. It can be even harder to show them how their own beliefs lead to a bias in interpretation of the facts. It can make party conversation interesting, but it has never been shown to illuminate any new great truth. Oh well. That's probably why I am a physical scientist at heart.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Battle of the Flaming Oven

I finally broke down and cleaned the oven today. Well, to be honest I sort of had to.  And to be more honest, it was closer to genocide than cleaning. It was a long story ...

On Wednesday I almost lost the battle with the keeper of the oven door. He demanded the password before he would let me fully open the door. Unfortunately, they had changed the password since the last time I had used the oven. I was ready to give up and forgo making my casserole, but ...

Along came this nice fellow and blabbed the new password. Then they had to let me in to bake my casserole. (I think he knew that my casserole was going to bubble over and leave the oven floor covered in all sorts of new detritus.)

Unfortunately, after a day or so, the detritus on the oven floor started to grow and breed some pretty funky creatures. They started chanting and demanding food in loud voices. They were even keeping Molly the dog and I awake at night.

This was the local gang leader. He seemed to exercise a deep and dark control over the rest of the mutants inhabiting the oven floor. Note the natural camouflage. He blended right in with spillage coating the oven floor. He (or maybe she) never communicated directly with me, but instead sent his/her lawyer/mouthpiece to yell at me.

This was his mouthpiece.  One of the better arguments in favor of adaptive evolution and lawyers.

Yesterday I finally demanded to be taken to their leader. I really didn't have a choice. When I opened the oven door, I found a group of the mutant beasties dancing round a large fire on the oven floor. It's really hard to cook a pizza over an open flame like that. Besides, it smelled really bad.

This handsome fellow took me by the ear and pulled my head to the back of the oven to talk to the queen of the mutants. She informed me that my repeated attempts to destroy her little kingdom by turning on the heat in the oven had to stop or it was going to be all out war.

The queen and I discussed the situation for a bit. She was adamant that I quit turning on the heat and wanted guaranteed delivery of new food supplies. I stuck to my demands to allow the cooking of  my pizza pie. I was saving my demand to cut the chanting off at midnight for the final phase of negotiations. We were at a stand still. It looked like the only hope of peaceful coexistence was to call in an outside negotiator. So I asked Molly the dog to step in and suggest a solution. Molly was unable to achieve a breakthrough. Molly started barking and running in circles and the queen declared war on me.

I felt fully justified in pulling up the door shields and locking the oven door. Then I set the timers and left for a few hours. When I returned, all that was left was a fine coating of gray ash. Thus ended the battle of the flaming oven. Sometimes mass genocide is the only way.

It seems lonely today without the background chanting. Even Molly looks quizzically at the oven from time to time. Maybe she is seeing ghosts.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What Is It???

Today we have before us an item from a goodie bag I received. I have puzzled over what this is and what possible utility it may have. Do you have a clue? Can you enlighten me?

On the right you see it in the closed position. The wire clip on the back looks to be a belt clip or ...

Here it is opened. The black interior is a hard(ish) rubber pad.

Here is another view of it open with the pad more exposed. The piece at the bottom is the latch to hold it closed and when pushed lets it open.

And finally here it is closed again.

It was given out to a diverse audience and is used as a promo piece for a university, so I believe it must:

  • be desirable to prospective students
  • have a  use or function for a general audience

It has no electrical parts or function. What you see is what you get. The best guess I have been able to come up with is a belt cable clamp, but given that there is no widespread use or demand for such a thing, I am pretty sure that is not correct.

So what is it? All guesses encouraged.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Either the National Weather Service (NWS) has a new found desire to scare warn the population or it is going to be really windy out here on the plains today. For the first time in my memory, the NWS activated the early warning system to issue a high wind warning for the area.  The warning extends from 5am MST to 6pm MST, so it sounds like a windy day.

On the plus side:

  • I will have an excuse to stay indoors
  • I won't have to rake that last batch of falling leaves
  • I might collect another metal snow shovel (see below)

On the negative side:

  • Internet access will slow to a crawl as the wires sing
  • The wind driven ionization will impart that edgy feeling all day long
  • The windows will rattle and the chimneys howl
  • The patio furniture is still out and will likely fly and move about
  • It will feel colder than it is

I wonder if it will be as windy as it was early in the spring? Then it was windy enough that I gained a new (heavy) metal snow shovel when the wind blew it into the back yard. Of course, I also lost a patio table when the wind sent it tumbling across the yard broke its cast iron legs.

It will be interesting to see if the wind energy facility will have to stop production. Wind turbines depend on a steady wind that does not exceed 40+ mph. The area around here is host to one of the largest wind energy facilities in the world (the ranking depends on whose figures you use). This article in Wikipedia is a bit out of date as the facility is/has been expanded beyond the original size of 267 turbines to 450 turbines and will be expanding even more in the next year. So we see a number of these in the area.
Just to give you a sense of scale, each tower is 237 feet tall and has a 170 foot diameter blade on it. The full assemblage is more than 160 tons. If the blades turn too fast (i.e. the wind is to brisk and the turbine is left in operation), the tips of the rotors go supersonic and the turbulence kills the power generation. Not to mention disturbs everything from wildlife to people with the sonic boom.

Enough boring you to death, on with battening down the hatches.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Return of the Tooth and Other Oddities

Today was supposed to be the day I went to the dentist about my broken tooth as described here and here . Unfortunately, it was not to be since I had to attend a funeral instead. So now the dental visit is set for next week. One nice thing about a small community - they understand when you have to re-schedule for such events.

Attending funerals is not one of my favorite activities. I understand on an intellectual level how important the rite is for the grieving and recovery process. But that doesn't mean I like it on an emotional level. In preference to most formal funerals, I would much rather see a moment of silent remembrance of the times we shared. When I die, I want my funeral to be a celebration, a party in honor of the good times we have shared together. No matter what your belief system, you can glory in the shared remembrances of good times past. So when I daydream and think about such things and plan my  prototype for a good last rite,  I have the following criteria:

  • Length - Keep it short, no more than 20 minutes of formal ceremony.
  • Music - Play the music I loved and we shared.
  • Remembrances - Remember the good times that we shared.
  • Afterwards - Have a party with food and conversation and music. Share the support and comradeship of those who were part of my journey.

With those things in mind,  I want the service music to be Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven and the Grateful Dead's Truckin. I like love those songs and think they are a mighty fine send off. Besides, I once had a minister and golf partner (hello T.L.) who threatened to return just to make me listen to him play Stairway to Heaven on acoustic guitar. He temporarily dropped the threat when the rest of the foursome threatened to attend church and  sit in the front pew holding golf clubs just to see how long he could keep a straight face in the pulpit.

I know it won't make one heck of a difference what I want. As my minister friend explained, funerals are for the living, not the dead. They are a rite designed to accelerate the grieving process and begin the healing process. A party in that circumstance looks a bit like avoidance. So call me an avoiding fool coward.

This post will probably be a test of your age. If you are below a certain 20/30 something age, you probably haven't even thought about any of this.  If you are beyond a a certain 70/80 something age, you probably already have it planned down to the minute. And then there are the rest of us. Where do you sit/stand?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We Have a Winner

I just saw that McCain has conceded to Obama and they are awaiting Obama's speech. I can't say that I am surprised - I felt that Obama expressed a vision (and had the better oratorical skills) whereas McCain merely reacted. People in crisis are always more in favor of visionaries than those who merely react.

One thing I liked was that McCain's concession speech was classy, complementary, and heartfelt. It was one of the best speeches I have ever heard him make. I hope that Obama and McCain can work well with each other in the coming years. It might help heal some rifts.

Obama's victory speech reminded me a bit of some of Martin Luther King's speeches. It wasn't his best speech, but it was a good speech none the less. The problem with victory speeches is that you have to thank so many people - the loser doesn't have quite the same onus to thank the troops.

And best of all? The blasted telephone calls  and negative tv ads will stop!


A really odd  brain spasm here:

  1. I read "High Maintenance Granola" which reminds me of
  2. Lola Granola, a character in the comic strip Opus penned by
  3. Berkeley Breathed who was managed on his high school paper by
  4. Harvey Neville who I met and worked with in NYC

Thus my mind has linked "High Maintenance Granola" to NYC in 4 steps, probably all of them non-obvious to any rational observer. Does that mean I have officially lost my mind? No, don't answer that.


Do you ever get frustrated by the inability to make your tools do what you want them to do? I do with some degree of regularity. Although I have spent a great part of my life developing software and programs, every once in a while I run into a program or tool that just will not do or let me do what I want it to do. (Or at the bare minimum will not let me do it the way I want to.)

In such a situation, I am left with few choices. I can create a new tool that does the task or behaves in the way I want it to. I can decide the niggling problem isn't worth any additional effort and let it go. I can spend hours beating my head against the monitor and keyboard trying different possible work-arounds. I can search using Google and the filtering skills of my inner frustrated librarian and hope to find a solution.

I have done most of those things attempting to get blogger to expand the comments on the main page like it does if you click on the the title of an article. Obviously, I could modify the underlying xml/html, but that defeats the goal of staying within the standard constraints of using blogger and not needing to do technical maintenance with each change by the blogger developers. I know what I desire is possible because I read various sites that do precisely what I desire. Most of them seem not to be blogspot and blogger based. Some examples include "The Spohrs are Multiplying ... ", "Cosmic Variance ", "The Observation Deck ", or even "Scribbit " which doesn't show the entry form but does expand the comments and is blogspot based.

I could understand not doing the expansion on a very popular site or one that drew many comments on each post. To misquote a former teacher, "That is not a problem with which I suffer." So I'll leave it at this: if you are using blogger and have succeeded in doing what I so desire without heavy modifications to your template, could you please point me in the correct direction? I am perfectly willing to limit the main page to just one post rather than the current weeks worth of posts at once if that is a needed change. Thanks.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Today's message is short and sweet. Remember that Tuesday is election day. So ...

If you have already voted, thank you!

If you haven't voted, you need to! Get going, we'll wait.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


My wife and I were guests tonight at the annual 4-H award banquet. As always, it was good to see the leaders and youth. It is always nice to see young people doing things well and being honored for their hard work. More on this later ...

One of the pleasures of being mayor is the chance to meet and interact with some of the best youth to be found. This year was especially nice in that sense because the local community college played host to the state FFA (Future Farmers of America) convention and they were kind enough to invite me to appear before the assembled group and welcome them.  It was a great experience. 2000 bright and eager high school youth who were polite, well spoken, and passionate. Young leaders who could work a crowd better than I could ever hope to. And they listened to an old fogey like me even though their kick off dance and mixer started shortly after I spoke. The hormones were at a fever pitch. I happened to sit on the convention floor and overhear a couple of young men beside me who were laying out their plan for which young ladies to ask to dance just before my speech. It was really fun to overhear, but I have no desire to be that young and agonized about the opposite sex again. Getting a rousing round of applause from 2000 screaming kids and a few hundred other adults (whether deserved or not) is as close as I'll ever get to being a rock star. Highly recommended if you get the chance.

I also sit on the committee of a local Boy Scout troop and my wife is on the state board for the Girl Scouts . In addition, we as a city council run a youth commission to get feedback and input from the youth of the community in a way that also exposes them to local government and how it works. We've been very fortunate to have some real leaders emerge from the youth commission. We hope they will return to roles in our community when their college days are over. There have been some that stand out and make you want to see their future because you know they will do great things.

In addition, we have started a program called "If I were Mayor ..." in cooperation with CML (Colorado Municipal League) . It is an essay contest for students in 5th grade who write an essay addressing how they would explain/do various things if they were mayor. Each year it is a different aspect of local government. I convene a panel of myself, the city manager, and community citizens to read the essays and select the top three. We give scholarship prizes to the top three winners and certificates signed by me with the city seal to all who enter. In addition, we forward all the entries to the CML state wide contest. The four state wide winners are given scholarship grants and invited to the CML annual meeting. They are recognized and honored at an awards luncheon at the meeting. We were lucky enough to have one of our students win the CML contest last year.

What makes this all come full circle is that some of the 4-H award winners tonight were participants in the "If I were Mayor ..." contest, some of the 4-H winners were youth commission members, and some of the 4-H winners were Scouts and FFA members. The one thing in common with all these events and groups is great kids working hard to reach their goals. They have fun and enjoy the journey, but they work hard and accomplish goals. They are taking steps, preparing for their future, and giving back to the community at the same time. It is so inspiring to talk to the youth and see their enthusiasm, pride, and giving spirits. A completely different picture from the group you see when you visit a prison.

(And as an aside, it is really fun to visit the elementary schools and read to the kids in the early grades. The Mayor is a mythical figure to them, so you have to work hard to live up to their expectations. Although it is a bit disconcerting when the first graders are much more excited by being read to by {*gasp*} a fireman or policeman.)

Quiz for Today

1 minute, 25 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor
Created by Bunk

Now that we have that out of the way, how long could you survive? Take the quiz by clicking above and find out. You never know when you might be chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Today was the church bazaar where the women's group sells handicrafts and food in support of their programs. They also host a luncheon as part of the bazaar. Since I am neither of the female persuasion nor crafty, I get to help do the transporting, setting up and cleaning up. It's not bad. Besides, my mom and mother in law are both heavily involved and are crafty bakers that contribute handcrafts and baked goods to bazaar. You might say there is no escape. The good side is that you get to eat the trial versions before the bazaar!

It is interesting to see what is popular and sells each year. Some years it is Christmas crafts, some years it is home made candy, some years it is home baked pies and cakes. Every year the youth group nut sales are popular and the home made noodles are generally sold out within minutes of opening. (That's another reason for being a volunteer - you can sometimes get a bag of the home made noodles.) In recent years, the individual pies and other baked goods that can be frozen and are packaged for one or two people seem to have gotten popular.

Cleaning up is always fun. We (the gentle people of the cleanup crew) have to wait until the bazaar is winding down and then we begin to put up tables and chairs, collect and put things away, vacuum the church, and generally act like a glorified janitorial crew.  A certain number of the men that used to help with cleanup have gotten old enough and had enough physical problems that they no longer can do work that involves lifting, etc. The task that is the most tedious is vacuuming the seeming acres of carpet in the church. I kind of enjoy it - there is a certain satisfaction to turning a messy debris strewn area into a neat sea of carpet. I just wouldn't want to do it every day!

The bazaar and the activities surrounding it give a sense of continuity to life as well. This church is the same church that I attended as a youngster, the same church that my wife and I got married in, the same church that our son was baptized in, the same church that my wife and I re-affirmed our marriage vows on our 25th anniversary in, etc. Well not the same physical church since the original partially burned down shortly after we were married, but spiritually the same. There are very few things in modern life that have a permanence like that. And like the church, the bazaar seems to have a permanence as well. I can remember my grandmother participating in the bazaar. In fact, the first time I remember watching someone hand make noodles in a large quantity, it involved my grandmother and others either in the church or for the church.

And so life goes on year after year. Yet another advantage of living in a area where traditions still persist.

(Notice that NaBloPoMo has started - 30 posts in thirty days - prepare to be blogged to death!)
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