Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stupid Saturday

Saturday has once more arrived meaning it is time for yet another piece of stupidity. Today we will look at a piece of entertainment from Paul Sadowski's Site . For those of you who are believers in name and numerology, now is the time to quit reading and leave.

OK, you are still here. No griping if your universe turns to unpalatable dust even as you read. My commentary on each section will be in italic font. Here is the output of the name analysis of my full name from the aforementioned site:


There are 14 letters in your name.
Those 14 letters total to 58
There are 7 vowels and 7 consonants in your name.

What your first name means:

WelshMaleAttractive. A translation of the Welsh name Deiniol.
IrishMaleAttractive. A translation of the Gaelic name Domhnall.
HebrewMaleGod is my Judge. The biblical prophet and writer of Book of Daniel was a teenager when taken to Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 BC. He survived two death sentences: (a lions' den and a fiery furnace.); Frontiersman Daniel Boone.
BiblicalMaleJudgment of God; God my judge

(OK, nothing that can't be found on two hands and a few toes coupled with a good dictionary thus far. Notice that there are no uncomplimentary terms in the descriptions. Nothing like "your name means scum of the earth or carrion eater.")

Your number is: 4
The characteristics of #4 are: A foundation, order, service, struggle against limits, steady growth.
The expression or destiny for #4:
Order, service, and management are the cornerstones of the number 4 Expression. Your destiny is to express wonderful organization skills with your ever practical, down-to-earth approach. You are the kind of person who is always willing to work those long, hard hours to push a project through to completion. A patience with detail allows you to become expert in fields such as building, engineering, and all forms of craftsmanship. Your abilities to write and teach may lean toward the more technical and detailed. In the arts, music will likely be your choice. Artistic talents may also appear in such fields as horiculture and floral arrangement, as well. Many skilled physicians and especially surgeons have the 4 Expression.
The positive attitudes of the 4 Expression yield responsibility; you are one who no doubt, fulfills obligations, and is highly systematic and orderly. You are serious and sincere, honest and faithful. It is your role to help and you are required to do a good job at everything you undertake.
If there is too much 4 energies present in your makeup, you may express some of the negative attitudes of the number 4. The obligations that you face may tend to create frustration and feelings of limitation or restriction. You may sometimes find yourself nursing negative attitudes in this regard and these can keep you in a rather low mood. Avoid becoming too rigid, stubborn, dogmatic, and fixed in your opinions. You may have a tendency to develop and hold very strong likes and dislikes, and some of these may border on the classification of prejudice. The negative side of 4 often produces dominant and bossy individuals who use disciplinarian to an excess. These tendencies must be avoided. Finally, like nearly all with 4 Expression, you must keep your eye on the big picture and not get overly wrapped up in detail and routine.

(Once again, note the absence of true negatives. Note also the broad and meaningless brush strokes. You could even fit a manic schizophrenic under the description. Being a 4, I could be anything from a milquetoast to a dictator and fit the description. Come to think of it, I *was* once called a "fat-headed asshole dictator by a former council member with an open mike." That was the beginning of her end.)

Your Soul Urge number is: 9
A Soul Urge number of 9 means: 
With a 9 Soul Urge, you want to give to others, usually in a humanitarian or philanthropic manner. You are highly motivated to give friendship, affection and love. And you are generous in giving of your knowledge and experience. You have very sharing urges, and you are likely to have a great deal to share. Your concern for others makes you a very sympathetic and generous person with a sensitive and compassionate nature.
You are able to view life in very broad and intuitive terms. You often express high ideals and an inspirational approach to life. If you are able to fully realize the potential of your motivation, you will be a very self-sacrificing person who is able to give freely without being concerned about any return or reward.
As with all human beings, you are prone to sometimes express the negative attitudes inherent to your Soul Urges. You may become too sensitive and tend to express emotions strongly at times. There can be significant conflict between higher aims and personal ambitions. You may resent the idea of giving all of the time and, in fact, if there is too much 9 energy in your nature you may reject the idea. You may often be disappointed in the lack of perfection in yourself and others.

(Once again a set of meaningless attributes that most people would be happy to have applied to themselves. Nothing about the tendency to crush others beneath your heel or your desire to picture your enemies naked at a Mary Kay convention.)

Your Inner Dream number is: 22
An Inner Dream number of 22 means: 
You dream of being a master organizer and a builder of monumental projects; of guiding a truly huge endeavor. Your secret fantasy is to think big and imagine what could be done for the world. You may also dream of the huge rewards.

(Anyone not happy to have this bit of pablum applied to them? My secret fantasy is to become ruler of the world. I have been held back thus far only by the inability to find a side kick with an appropriately awesome name. Any volunteers?)

(As you can tell, I'm not overly impressed with the analysis of my name. Are you any more impressed when you give it your name? Remember to use your maiden name if married, etc.)

(For something really stupid, check this poor fellow out. Warning - may be offensive!)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hidden Agendas

Have you ever had a meeting where the real agenda is hidden and you are trying to figure out what the heck is going on from the first words? I have and, to be blunt about it, it sucks.

I was in such a meeting recently. There was an ostensible agenda in place. The opening conversations actually seemed relevant to the stated purpose of the meeting, and then ... it went to heck in a hand basket. Sensible suggestions were ignored and there were long winded cases of verbal diarrhea around every answer. After wasting an hour in inane volleys, I had somewhat figured out what the hidden topic of the meeting was and could put 2 and 2 together to figure out why it was not being brought up directly.

So being the blunt character I am, I flat out asked the question: "Why are we tap dancing around what seems to be a pink elephant sitting in the corner? Don't we have to figure out how to handle A before we proceed further?" You would have thought I'd farted and the gas masks were in short supply.

Turns out that the people who had called the meeting (part of another political body) had cut an under the table deal with A and were now trying to get an alternative plan in place and then somehow leave it to me to handle the A issue and weasel them out of the under the table agreement. Which is interesting in and of itself since I have nothing officially to do with A.

I can't disclose more about the topic at hand, but it makes me real unhappy when people try to use me like that. Why not be straightforward and honest? Admit you did something idiotic and that it will have to fixed before the long range plan can go forward. I am a lot more likely to try and help if I am not forced to delve into the slime of your mind and dealings with nothing more than a flashlight.

You ever have meetings like that?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meme Time

It's been a while since I checked out what the almighty Google has to say. In the standard Google Meme, you take your first name and then a verb and report the first thing Google returns for that search. But with my very common first name I sometimes have to proceed down a few entries to find one suitable for publishing. (If you are curious why I edit, google "Dan likes" and check out the first two results. Might be OK if I were of a different sexual persuasion and lived south of the border, but not for the current reality.)

Here is my version of the Google Meme with commentary. Note that keeping score is important!

Dan needs: Your help.
This is right on the button. I need your help finding a real live job. Any and all offers considered.
Google: +1.

Dan looks like: he's kind of checking out the Angel's rack.
Dan looks like: a Ninja.
Given that I don't know the Angel, I kind of doubt I'd be doing that. I also bear no resemblance to a Ninja the last time I looked.
Google: -1.

Dan likes: showing his butt on Flickr.
Google strikes out again. At least to the best of my knowledge, I don't even have a picture up on Flickr, let alone one that shows that particular part of my anatomy.
Google: -1.

Dan wants: to be a stripper.
I guess I can go with this one. I've never really considered it as a career option, but I figure I could clear the room in seconds with no problem. Oh, you mean I'm supposed to attract people? Never mind.
Google: -1.

Dan does: It
Dan does: your radar reach Iowa?
I guess I do it. It all depends on which it I guess. But I definitely don't have a radar and so I don't think it reaches Iowa.
Google: 0.

Dan hates: SPAM.
Google nails one.
Google: +1.

Dan goes: cynical.
Dan goes: to the wrong house after the bar.
Once again a problematic one to score. Google hit it on the nose with the cynical, but so far as I remember I have never gone to the wrong house after the bar. Maybe Google knows something I don't.
Google: +1.

Dan loves: Me.
Dan loves: eggs.
Well if you are L or family or ... from real life, yes I do love you. But if you are a random stalker from Peoria, maybe not. And the egg thing? Not too much.
Google: 0.

Dan has: a lot of Stuff to do.
Dan has: Potential.
Dan has: No Friends.
Well, there is some truth to all of the above. I'd probably give Google a -1 for the no friends remark, but I could go with the potential. And I certainly to have a lot of stuff to do, so have fun and give the Google oracle a try to see how your  life is going.
Google: +1

Net Google Score: +1+1-1-1-1-1+0+1+1+0+1 = +1

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dick, The One-Legged Opera Singer

It is once again time for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge . I have already written about most of the prompts, and as a mayor,  if I decided to write a letter to all the people who annoyed me in the last week I'd never get done. So what I have chosen to do is modify prompt number 1 to read
1) Tell us about a stray animal you took in.
The deletion of that one word is critical. It means I can write about Dick.

The Story of Dick, The One-Legged Opera Singer

When I was a graduate student, I often spent a pleasant Friday afternoon drooling at the wonderful array of equipment in the local stereo and record store. Yes, it is true, there was once an age when music was sold on a mythical material called vinyl and entire stores were dedicated to selling audiophile stereos. No TV's, no computers, no ... The normal watering hole for the grad students and professors was across the street, so I'd get to the store an hour or so before the weekly watering hole event to drool and dream. With the passage of time, I became a friend of the stereo store manager and would help customers with information if he was swamped. In return, he offered me discounts on equipment I could not otherwise afford as a poor graduate student.

One Friday as I was drooling and dreaming of a particular tuner, I noticed a very distinguished looking  gentleman acting very confused as he stared at the array of stereos lining the walls. The only other thing that stood out about the gentleman was that he was on crutches and was having issues with the crowded aisles of the store. Since the manager was tied up with another customer, I asked him if there was something I could help him find. It was like I had opened the gates of heaven. His entire face lit up and it was clear he felt that someone had just thrown him a life preserver. He was "just looking", but he hoped to get a system he could listen to his opera records on. He introduced himself as Dick and we talked for a bit waiting for the store manager to get free. I gave him some advice about what to look for and then  introduced him to the manager. I never figured I'd ever see the Dick again.

Several weeks later, Dick once more wondered into the store and immediately sought me out. We talked for a bit and decided to get coffee next door so we could talk in peace and quiet. Stereo stores at the time were noted for playing loud rock and roll, usually several different songs at the same time. Not a good place to attempt conversation. As we talked, the subject of Dick's opera fanaticism and my own stereo equipment fetish came up. After a bit more discussion, it was clear that I knew as little about opera as Dick knew about stereo equipment. So a deal was struck - I would attempt to educate Dick about stereo equipment and Dick would attempt to teach me a bit about opera.

One of the San Francisco classical radio stations broadcast a weekly show that featured operas from around the world (if memory serves me right, it was produced by the Met). So we made the arrangement that Dick would come over to my place and act as a docent for the opera and then we would talk stereo stuff for a while.

I still vividly remember the first Sunday meeting. The opera was Massenet's Thais . Dick's commentary was like looking into a whole new world. I had never listened to opera before, but with Dick's insight it was entrancing. The combination of the music and Dick's scene by scene description of what was happening on stage and what the motivations of the characters were and ... was simply stunning. It was great! In fact, I felt a bit like a piker, exchanging my dry technical knowledge for this panoramic vista of art and music.

Over the course of the next few months I learned a tremendous amount about opera and Dick learned enough to buy the stereo he wanted. But even more interesting, I learned Dick's story. He had been an opera singer with the San Francisco opera. That explained his in depth knowledge of so many operas and the particular stagings. He had been there and sung in some of them! He had been involved in an accident involving a car and a street car, resulting in the loss of his leg. That had ended his on stage opera career, since as he put it "there aren't many roles for a one-legged tenor in all of opera." So he had moved to the university town where I met him and gotten on with his life, giving voice lessons.

So the next time you see someone looking confused and lost, adopt them. The stray you take in may open up whole new vistas for you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oddball Tuesday

Today was pretty calm. In a mini-heat wave it got up to 9 or 15 degrees depending on which weather reporter you believed. So it is below 0 right now and will undoubtedly be cold as I meander down to the radio station in the morning. I hate it when the combination of cold and wind is enough that one has to wear a scarf to cover the face or get frostbitten. Guess I'll just have to wait for the weekend when it is supposed to get warmer.

I figured I'd answer/respond to a few of the comments from the last week.

First of all, I want to thank the people who read the story of L and I and thought it was sweet. As I read the other responses to Mama Kat's challenge , I found a number of other stories that I thought were pretty amazing as well. It's always fun to read the responses to the challenges. I really encourage everyone to journey over to Mama's Losin' It on Thursdays to follow mr. linky and read the results of the weekly writer's challenge.

And to CJ's mutual admiration of things cow, I'd add that there is a lawyer living out here with the custom plates MOOLAW. Maybe cows are the new cabbage patch kids? Who knows?

In the comments to Stupid (and Slow) Saturday , Kris Loves Chocolate from uptomyneckinchocolate said  the post gave her an idea for an upcoming post. I am waiting with baited breath to see what the combination of a nap and stupid criminals stories inspired. Somehow it seems an odd combo to inspire.

Blueviolet of A Nut In A Nutshell has my sympathies since she sometimes suffers loonies as well. All I have to say is that the maximum range of looniedom is coming to a close since I will be term limited out of office come November. Then it will be someone else's problem. {*grin*} (BTW, you should go read her post for today. It has a funny story that really seems to appeal to the female of the species.)

In Week Before Super Bowl Sunday , I talked about my un-crowning and filled out the meme from blueviolet's blog. I want to let Kelley of Magneto Bold know that dental cement is designed to be removed if need be, but artificial joints are epoxied in, so I don't think it is much of a concern. {*grin*} (And you really should read her post for the today if you have any sense of techie humor. The parody of an O'Reilly cover is stunningly funny.) And for blueviolet and Jenners who thought that my answer to #23 was stereotypically male and funny, all I can say is guilty as charged.

And last but not least, the answer to the question posed by blueviolet : why did I walk to the dentist? That is because I walk most places. No sense in driving if one can avoid it. It is only about 6 blocks to the dentist from my home office, so it isn't a tough journey.

I just heard "Green Eyed Lady" by Sugarloaf on the net radio. Boy does that bring back memories from high school. Sugarloaf was a band out of Denver that hit it big in my high school years. One local even filled in on drums for them right after they released "Green Eyed Lady" but before it became a national hit. That was how they became one of the few famous rock groups ever to play here in this small town. Hopefully this is a better tune to have stuck in your head than "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidi."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Miscellaneous Monday

Q: What do you call someone who has been crowned twice in one month?

A1: Broke.
A2: A dual monarch.
A3: Relieved.

I'll let you chose the answer you like the best. {*grin*}

Today was a bit chill out here on the plains. It got up to somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees (it all depends on who you believe). Add to that a nice 15 mph breeze and it felt downright chilly. I walked over to the dentist's at about 2pm and it was breezy and snowing and cold. It never got any better after that. Now tonight it has cleared off and the temperatures are dropping fast, heading towards another subzero night. But the good news is that the forecast for the weekend is for days in the 50's.

Ran into a former intern of L's from her past business. The young lady was a Boettcher scholar and has finished her undergraduate degree now. Found out she is working near the university she attended for the nonce until medical school starts in the fall. It is always nice to see someone do well, especially someone who is a daughter of an acquaintance and went to high school here. She won my heart when she was working at the country club one summer at the remote stand. To fill the time between golfers, she had her calculus book and was boning up on definite integrals. Warmed the cockles of my scientist's heart. She was back in town for her sister's birthday and just happened to be in for her dental checkup when I was there. My dentist and I think she will be a good doctor. (She was also a classmate of one of my dentist's daughters.)

According to my dentist, I'm now good for another twenty years or more. I'm just happy that I can open my mouth again and let the air in without a blast of pain. Amazing how much difference in quality of life $10 worth of glue can make.

Time to put my notebook together for tomorrow's council meeting. We have a number of things to go over, including the approval interview of the new fire chief. Hopefully won't run too long.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Week Before Super Bowl Sunday

A perfectly good title which has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post, its all good.

Today was much more typical of winter weather around here. It got up to somewhere around 15 degrees and then stayed windy and snowy all afternoon. It is right now at the border of single digits, but isn't snowing any more.

Can you guess what this is:

Yes, that is a dental crown. But it is not the one that was just put on (from here and here and here ), this is the  other one from the opposite side that was put on 25+ years ago. Evidently the dental cement from back then is only good for twenty or so years. So this afternoon it decided to come off. I immediately called my dentist at home (told you it was a small town) and he volunteered to come into town (he lives outside of town) and glue it back on, but since it was not too painful, I told him first thing in the morning was fine. No sense in ruining his day with the family. So 8am tomorrow I'll find out when he has slotted me in and get it repaired. One of the hazards of aging is that things like filings and crowns have finite lifetimes on the order of twenty years, so one gets to get them redone as they reach that certain age. A pain in the ... (well, you know where.)

So in honor of it being another day of infamy here, blueviolet has tagged all her readers with the following meme and I respond thusly:

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Nope, not per se.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Last week - smashed index fingernail.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Since I have been using computers from the 70's, my handwriting has deteriorated to an illegible scrawl. So the answer is no.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? It all depends. Sometimes bologna, sometimes salami, sometimes ham, and sometimes turkey.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? L and I have one son, 18 years old.


7. DO YOU USE SARCASM? Never! {*grin*}

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? No, not for the last 45+ years.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Nope. Big people don't trust rubber bands.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Rice Chex or Shredded Wheat.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Always. Size 16 feet with high arches don't slip out of ties shoe.

12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? French vanilla or Rocky Road.


14. RED OR PINK? Neither. Blue or Green.


16. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? Of the living, L my wife. Of the departed probably my grandfather.


18. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Black sweat pants, blue sweat shirt, white socks. No shoes.

19. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Iron Butterfly's original 17 minute version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida  (Click the link to see how fuzzy my memory is.)

20. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Don't know for sure. Green maybe?

21. FAVORITE SMELLS? Baking bread, frying bacon, a certain Chanel scent L. used to wear when we were dating.


23. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO POSTED THIS NOTE? Don't know. I read her blog, but otherwise don't know her.

24. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? College football of any form.

25. HAIR COLOR? Used to be dark brown to black. Now not so much. Mostly white with a few dark hairs waging a forlorn battle against extinction.

26. EYE COLOR? Blue.

27. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Used to, but haven't in years. Now it is bifocals.

28. FAVORITE FOOD? Varies. BBQ smoked sausage, steak, toasted cheese, vegetable soup.


30. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Dr. Zhivago - one of my all time favorites.


32. SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter in my youth, summer now that I'm getting older and feel cold all winter.


34. FAVORITE DESSERT? Cake, ice cream, or fruit.

35. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND ? To injustices.

36. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND ? To blithering idiots.


38. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I use a track ball, but it sits on a mentor net mouse pad. Someday I'll have to write about the somewhat insane young lady I last mentored.


40. FAVORITE SOUND(S)? 60's and early 70's rock and roll.



43. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Computer Whispering? Who knows?

44. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Colorado.


46. HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER? Sitting in high school biology class as described here .

So my challenge to you is to answer all these questions (if you so desire.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stupid (and Slow) Saturday

Today was rather slow. I went to the funeral this morning and then came back home to get some other things done. By 2:30 after a brisk 4 mile walk in the cold breeze, I was ready for a nap. So from 2:30 to 5 was occupied with sawing some rather large logs (with Molly the wonder dog snoring right beside the bed with me).

In the arena of stupid, the local loonies seem to have been on their good behavior this week. (Other than the gentleman from yesterday .) So I have had to try and remember what impressed me during the week. Given my marshmallow memory, that can be challenging.

Some of my favorite tales of the stupid criminally inclined:
David Posman, 33, was arrested recently in Providence, R.I, after allegedly knocking out an armored car driver and stealing the closest four bags of money. It turned out they contained $800 in PENNIES, weighed 30 pounds each, and slowed him to a stagger during his getaway so that police officers easily jumped him from behind.
which could qualify for a chance at the Darwin Awards . And then you have the not overly bright minor offenders. I suspect this gentlemen might have been from large city where he wouldn't expect the police to think like this:
A local man is involved in a car accident. When the police arrive, the man gives his drivers license to the officer, and then literally turns and runs away. The officer doesn't give chase, but does check him through the computer. He has no warrants and is a valid driver. His car is also registered to him and everything is proper. The officer simply tows the man's car, drives over to his house and issues him a ticket.
But the best non-thinking criminals tend to be young. They still believe they are bullet proof and won't get caught no matter how blatant the action. Like this pair:
Police arrested a 16-year-old driver and his 19-year-old passenger in July in Exeter Township when the driver coolly pulled up to a sobriety checkpoint and told officers they were on the way to a party, even though both were obviously intoxicated; the car was littered with empty and open beer cans; and the boys looked much younger than 21 (the drinking age). And two other things: The car had been reported stolen, and in the back seat was a leather satchel containing various license plates, car titles and other motor-vehicle papers.
Last but not least, the cousin of the guy who wrote his ransom note on the back of his pay check:
STEVENS POINT, Wis. -- A woman didn't have to look far to figure out who likely broke into her home and took a camera from her purse. Police said the burglar left behind his probation and parole card.
So, what kind of stupidity has been catching your attention this week?

 Now I'll leave you with an example winning Darwin Award entry from last year:
(8 March 2008, Florida) Just because you see it online does not mean it's a good idea. Cameron, 18, was joyriding in a shopping cart as he held onto a moving SUV. An eyewitness said, "It's irresponsible behavior, but what do you expect from kids?" The car and the cart went over a speed bump and the cart overturned, ejecting its occupant, who was not wearing the little seat belt. Cameron was pronounced dead at the scene.

(My apologies to those of you who have lost loved ones to such tragedies. )

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Drunks Only Come Out On Friday

I swear that this must be a full moon time. The loonies were out in force today. And my original post for this evening was eaten by Blogger, leaving no trace. All I need now is a drunken phone call at 3am to make the day complete.

The day began with an assortment of odd people calling. Most were of the sane to moderately loony ilk, but one definitely made it to full on loony status. With just one call. Mr. X, as he shall be known for now, made it to the loony hit parade. No getting to the point of the call with Mr. X. He suffered from verbal diarrhea in the worst form. After about fifteen minutes, he finally came to the first "point" of his call. He had "heard" something on the radio in Denver and thought is was a great idea and why weren't we damn well doing it. So after some more meandering, he final came out with what he had "heard". He "heard" that Denver was forcing all those who applied for welfare benefits to work fixing the city streets. That immediately raised the bullshit detector to high alert since: 1) cities in general have nothing to do with welfare programs and 2) the insurance premiums for having unqualified people working in and around heavy equipment would be prohibitive. When queried, well, he hadn't actually "heard" it on the radio, it was at a bar. Things were beginning to become clear. Mr. X was inebriated and getting more so (at 10am no less). When it became clear that the welfare plan wasn't going to fly, Mr. X changed tactic and wanted to know if he could get a ride. I told him I had a meeting to attend, but he might want to call xxx-yyyy (the local police department number) and they might indeed give him a ride. I hope he enjoyed talking to them. If he is typical of the few serious drunks around here, the police already know him, where he lives, and how long he needs to be held to sober up.

Mr. X reminded me of a gentleman I first met shortly after becoming Mayor. One fall Friday when it was nice but with a brisk breeze, I am walking around the park when a gentleman seated on a park bench yells at me (and anyone passing by) to please hand him the bottle of whiskey by his feet. By the next lap around, there is one empty on the ground and he is still asking for someone to hand him his full bottle sitting at his feet. One more lap and he is turning belligerent, screaming at anyone who passes. It is also clear that he is so drunk that he cannot stand up and make the two step journey to his full bottle.  I called the police and told them about the situation (he was too drunk to even reach down and get the other bottle by his feet and was turning belligerent towards those using the park). Even if he hadn't been belligerent, I would still have called the police since the temperature had dropped 30 degrees in the last hour and he would soon be in danger of hypothermia because he had no coat. The police arrived and immediately knew the gentleman. He was a highly decorated Korean war veteran who would go off the deep end drinking about every three weeks, The rest of the time he was a nice and upstanding guy. So the drug and DUI test officer talked to him for a bit. He was told he could either be taken to the hospital so his BAC could be monitored or he could be taken to the holding tank where someone would have an eye on him. In no case would he be taken home and in no case would he get his other bottle of whiskey. After several attempts when it became apparent that he could not get up, a couple of the officers helped him over to the car for the journey to the tank. That in my mind is one of the great things about a small town. The officers knew the gentleman, knew what needed to be done, did it, *and* treated the gentleman with respect.

Most of the other things today concerned matters that I am not at liberty to talk about. Lets just say it was a day of strange meetings and even stranger conversations.

Late this afternoon, I went to the open house and grand opening of the new Adult Education and Family Literacy Center at the local community college. The program has grown over the years and is now in a new facility (new to them). The program teaches GED and ESL courses. I was surprised to learn of the size of the GED program. They currently have ~100 GED students and ~20 ESL students.  One of the things that sets the program apart is that they have a child care nursery in the building so that young mothers and fathers can bring the kids to a safe and fun place while they are in class. Studies had shown that the number one impediment to young single mothers and families pursing a GED was child care (in many cases it was the pregnancy and birth of the child that had caused  the truncation of their education). This way the problem is addressed and the education happens.

Well, I've got a funeral to attend in the morning. Goodnight for now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Memorable Blind Date (sort of)

Mama Kat 's up for yet another writer's challenge . This week's choices left me hanging a bit. But then I decided to follow Mama Kat 's lead and modify the prompt a bit. Mama said:
1.) Tell us about a memorable blind date.
2.) Other than the birth of a child or your wedding, write about a joyous moment.
3.) Write about one of the most difficult decisions you have made in your life.
4.) Share the best picture you took last month and explain why it's your favorite

But all of these prompts left me in a quandary. So I decided to write about the nearest thing to a blind date I have ever been on. (Coincidentally, it is also one of those joyous moments that formed another prompt.)

The Prelude:
I was an antisocial brainiac nerd in high school. Being huge, a football player, outspoken, smart, and an egotist conspired to make me one of the least popular people amidst my peers. Even so, I did some dating, just not a lot. Sophomore year of high school, a really neat girl moved to the area and was assigned to the seat beside me in biology class. Over the course of the next few weeks I became smitten with her. She was beautiful and smart and fun and ... So I finally ramped up my courage and asked her out for a Friday night. I was planning to attend the school play with her.

When I asked, she immediately told me no, she couldn't go out then because her grand parents were visiting. Ok, a minor shoot down. I could live with that. But then on the Friday night in question she shows up at the play sans grand parents, making it real clear I was snubbed. We didn't really speak to each other much after that. At least not for the next few years. We both dated other people, but saw each other in classes and in church group.

The Blind Date:
Senior year, just before Halloween, I got invited to a big Halloween party being held in a country barn by some classmates. Given the description of my popularity above, such invites were not a common occurrence in my life. I figured that something must be up, but wasn't sure what it could be.

And then she, the neat girl from above, talked to me. It was clear that she was hoping I was going to attend. So I said yes and along with my lifelong friend G (mentioned here) attended the party. I spent most of the evening talking to the girl in question. It was clear we both were entranced and felt something growing. After the party was over, I convinced her to go driving the streets with me and G (or it may have been she convinced me - I was in an euphoric cloud and don't remember). G was the perfect wingman, driving us all around while we talked and talked. (And in looking back on it, I owe G. a lot for being so nice that night.) The upshot was that the evening had become somewhat of a blind date.

The Aftermath:
The next week she and I went out on our first official date. We survived the flashing of the porch lights by her dad as we sat and talked for hours past her curfew. We became a couple. We dated and saw each other and fell deeper and deeper in love. We survived the separation of attending colleges thousands of miles apart and attempts to break up and ... That was 36 years ago and we have now been married  for 33+ years. G. was one of my groomsmen when we got married. Yes, that's right. The girl who shot me down, snubbed me, and was the object of mutual avoidance for several years is my lovely wife L. All goes to show that first attempts don't mean everything. And that love can win out.

P.S. The answer to yesterday's question is have a birthday. May 22 is the day with the lowest birth rate in the United States.

Wacky Wednesday

This morning was the normal weekly radio show. I didn't have a lot to say since the main topic for the week has been water rights. The EPA forced treatment of our water under the new standards will force us to waste (not use in any constructive way) at least 15% of the water we pump from the ground. That means that although we thought we had sufficient water rights to cover the projected growth in usage for the next 35 years, we now need to begin looking for more water to buy to cover our depletions much sooner. I know that people who don't live in the water short American West don't have a clue what I'm moaning about. Those who do are going "yup, been there and been burned by stupidity of easterner's laws before too."

One of the nice things about doing the radio show is that things here in "small town" have been pretty calm, so I don't get the raving lunatics calling in. It's more the attack of the rabidly apathetic - you can't get them to call for any reason. That means I get to blither on about topics of my own choosing. Sort of like rambling to your self on a blog - you don't know until later who was listening/reading and only then when they comment on it. For small market radio, the rule of thumb is that if you have 100 listeners, you will get around one comment in the next week. I wonder if there is a similar rule of thumb for comments on blogs. Have you heard of one?

Time to get on with cleaning up the kitchen. I left the dishes after supper and now have to do them before bed. I find that when I'm batching it, I have a tendency not to do things like the laundry and dishes if I don't do them right away. On the other hand, I'm enough of a neatnik that I can't stand having the mess sitting around. So I have this internal dialog going on in my head between the angel of neatness and the imp of sloppiness. Add to that the trio of me, myself, and I all babbling at each other and the conversations gets a bit hard to get a word in edgewise. And of course Molly the dog feels free to contribute here two barks as well. Which might explain why I'm so incoherent at times! {*grin*}

Speaking of raving lunatics, what is the one thing least likely to happen to a U.S. citizen on May 22? That was the question we used to give away the dozen donuts on the trivia show that follows my meandering on the radio. My pre-air prediction was < 3 minutes and 2 callers. I hit it on the nose. Leave your guess of the answer in the comments. I will include the answer in tomorrows blog entry.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inagural Tueday

From all that I see on the news and in the blogosphere, it appears that today was either a red letter day of happiness or a black shrouded dirge of sadness. If you were liberal, fed up with Bushie, young, excitable, non-Caucasian, or ... you were overjoyed and happy. If you were a dyed in the wool conservative, or a Rush Limbaugh fan, or ... you were enveloped with a deep and lingering feeling of sadness.

For my part, I am of a mixed mind. The problems facing the Obama administration are large and growing. The honeymoon will be short and the aftermath ugly if definitive action doesn't happen in the early days of power. But, for the first time in a lot of years we have a powerful orator who is young and quasi-intellectual as our President. Given that Mr. Obama is a veteran of the Chicago political machine, he should be able to negotiate the pitfalls of Washington with aplomb. So here's to hoping that good things will happen and this country will get back on track.

Today was sad in this part of the world. Rex Monahan, one of the pillars of the community died on Monday and the news was released today. The announcements and preliminary obituaries reflect the private nature of his life. He was a man who did much good for the community. He and his wife have been involved in the community for years and years. I went to school with two of his four children, and even that far back he was known for his generosity. Sometimes what he did was known, like the library at the college named for his family and the park in the city named the same and the support of the literacy program and the endowed scholarships, and .... Other times his generosity was hidden, like the family battling cancer who mysteriously got added to his payroll so they could concentrate on the fight. He was a man who lived life full on, deciding to get into power lifting after he quasi-retired. He still holds power lifting world records for the 75-80 year old category. He and his wife set a goal of helping 1000 people to become literate, tutoring and supporting the literacy coalition. They easily exceeded that goal. He decided to learn a new language as a hobby even after his hearing degenerated (due to all the loud noise exposure in the oil fields). It was typical of his determination.

One anecdote that I remember about Rex came from his wife, Doris. We were having supper and she was expressing how happy she was that Rex had finally taken up a hobby other than photography. I asked why and she explained that she was tired of coming home and finding "things" in the bathtub where Rex had put them to photograph and then gotten called away. I asked what kind of things. Doris' answer - "Oh, you know. rattlesnakes and frogs and turtles, things like that." I have two lasting mental images of Rex. One is the two of us standing, with Rex draping one arm on my arm, his good ear towards me, saying "Now Dan ...". The other is visiting the nursing homes and finding Rex making visits so that no one would feel alone. He was always there for the people of the community. Rex's courtly manners, community spirit, and giving heart will be greatly missed.

Well, with that it is time to get some real work done.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Moody Monday

Today was one of a sequence of odd weather days here on the plains. It was close to 60 degrees today and is forecast to be 70+ degrees tomorrow. This is happening during a time of the year when it typically reaches a high of -10 for the day. Don't get me wrong, I don't object to the anomalous warmth. At least not if the wind would die down a little. Today the wind was gusting to 60 mph and stayed windy all day. It is almost like the Santa Ana winds from when we lived in LA. The negative ions in the air make everyone a bit testy and the continuous howling keeps things (and dogs like Molly) on edge. Oh well, give it a week and it'll probably become more seasonable and I'll be complaining about the cold.

One of the local newspapers emailed me over the weekend to get my opinion for their weekly opinion piece. You know, one of those "the roving reporter asked these people X and are their one liner responses with a bad picture of their heads" type of piece. The paper must be planning a special piece connected to their inaugural reporting. So anyway, the question was "What issue should the new President first address? (and why)"

This question is one which could take literally days and 100's of pages to fully explore. In fact, I am sure that Mr. Obama and his transition team have been doing exactly that. He is probably forced to read a couple of hundred pages of position papers from the team every day. But since this is a one liner type of reportage (the twitter of news?), I have  to be brief and concise. And I don't have to consult with my transition team either.

So what did I answer? I was short and sweet:
The economy should be addressed first. If people are working, housed, and fed then the other problems can be handled on a more timely schedule.

How's that for a typical politician's waffle fest? In this case it happens to the the truth from where I sit. I suspect there are other views and positions, but to me it seems clear that the biggest problem preventing considered action on the myriad of other problems *is* the economy. People are running in fear. Those who have already lost their jobs are facing  homelessness and hunger. Those who haven't are scared of being put in those situations. People who are scared and running in fear tend to be neither able nor amenable to solving problems

So how would you have answered the question?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Death of a Character

I was saddened to read of the death of John Mortimer in yesterdays paper. If the name Mortimer doesn't ring any bells, maybe the fact the he was the creator of Horace Rumpole and the "Rumpole of the Bailey" series will help. For most of us here in the United States, that is how we knew of Mr. Mortimer.

It is interesting that Sir John (knighted in 1998) really was a barrister in Britain. In fact, to many Britons he might be better known for his defense of free speech and human rights than for his role of creating and writing the Rumpole series. He was the champion of the Sex Pistols in their battle against their records being declared obscene. He was also the champion of author Hubert Selby, Jr. whose "Last Exit to Brooklyn " was deemed unacceptable under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 in Britain. In one of those six-degrees of separation oddities, he was also the defender the London edition of Oz magazine when they published an issue written and illustrated by student readers. (And that is noted because one of the objectionable illustrations was drawn by none other than Robert Crumb who went on to found the underground comix movement with characters like Mr. Natural , Fritz the Cat , and of course his ongoing "Keep on Trucking ".) Mr Mortimer journeyed as far a Nigeria to defend playwright and poet Wole Soyinka from criminal charges. In short, he was in some sense a barrister's barrister or as we would say here in the States, a "lawyer's lawyer." Which makes it all the more amazing to me that he could write a continuing string of stories and books.

The legal cleverness shown by Mr. Mortimer and his Rumpole character might have roots in Mr. Mortimer's father, Clifford Mortimer, who was a famous divorce lawyer. The New York Times noted that Mr. Mortimer's father "once established adultery with no more evidence than a pair of footprints upside down on the dashboard of a Austin Seven." The elder Mortimer went blind when John was a youngster, but carried on without acknowledging it or discussing it.  Clifford was also known for his temper and harsh tongue. What a combination! I think it would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when the the two Mortimers got talking (or fighting or ...). Sir John was a noted liberal who "hated vegetarians, atheists and animal-rights activists". It makes his impassioned defense of free speech issues even more interesting.

What I remember most about the Rumpole stories has little to do with law or even English jurisprudence. It is the characters.  Horace Rumpole himself, quoting Keats and drinking claret at Pommeroy's wine bar every evening. Rumpole's absolute slovenliness and untidiness and confusion; right up to the point where he stood up in court and was clear, concise, and brilliant. And then there was Hilda, his wife, known generally as "she who must be obeyed", always trying to protect Rumpole from his own vices. One thing that was interesting to me is that every Rumpole story seemed set in the same time and social milieu. In fact Sir John acknowledged that he intentionally did not develop his characters. That in and of itself is amazing considering it covered 30 years of stories, novels, and TV scripts.

Rest in peace John Mortimer. You and your creations will be missed.

Stupid Saturday (a bit late)

First up in the parade of stupidity for today is that famous trio of me, myself, and I. I managed to rip about half the fingernail off my right index finger, so typing and mousing is a bit slow and error prone at the moment. Why does it make the stupid list? Because I wasn't paying attention when I released the spring clamp and boing - it sprang along with some skin and part of the nail. Boneheads of the world unite!

Next up we have a pair of "only in your dreams" stories. First is one from a technical blog and the second from a medical blog.

From the , the blog of Joerg Moellenkamp comes this suggestion for a new web 2.0 (and a little swipe at the popularity of twitter ):

When you look at the Web 2.0 ecosphere, you will recognize, that the most unlikely services wins. Or did you really expected that one of the most used services allows you to send 140 chars in a time when 10 GBit/s per lamda is quite normal? Well ... i have an idea for a Web 2.0, too: It´s called
It´s a solution for a worldwide problem: Your girlfriend or your boyfriend found a new significant other and you need the position of the car to proof your eternal love by cutting a heart into the tyres of the car? You want the job of a colleague thus you have to mob him out of his job and want to place some horse shit on his car when the sun burns? No problem .... is the solution.
You just place a request into the service: At first you describe the car. License plate, colour, type, exact model of the car and possible locations. As much as possible. But just the licence plate and the colour is displayed to others Then you specify a reward and you pay it via PayPal to the service. Interested people can lookup searchrequests in their region. When they find it, they have to describe the car. When all conditions match, the money is transferd to the account of the finder. The service is financed by a service fee of 5% per transaction.

read the rest of Joerg's article here . I really like Joerg's blog, even down to the punish name which is a play on the disk device name from Solaris .

From the pen of #1dinosaur at dinosaurmusings comes this suggestion about the plane crash in the Hudson River:

New evidence just in about the recent airliner water crash being termed the Miracle on the Hudson, in which a US Airways jet was disabled by a flock of birds before being forced to make a watery landing in the Hudson river, with no fatalities thanks to the skill and courage of the pilot and flight crew:

The latest reports are stating that the birds involved, a "flock of geese," were Canada geese. This is clear evidence that the incident was in fact an act of terrorism by Canada against the US.
Calls for the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the incident ought to be forthcoming.

So now you have it. All the stupidity that I care to type for now.

P.S. You did realize that both of these are tongue in cheek farces didn't you? They are!

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Grammar Rap

Every once in a blue moon, I come across something that tickles my funny bone to the extent that I can't resist sharing it with the world. And no we're not talking here about anything my grandmothers may have done. (And you'll notice that I followed the video's advice and used the right we're and not were!) So here is a tidbit of proper grammar and humor that has me hooked. 

Without further ado, I give you  sistersalad !

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Meeting Up the Road

I just got back from a meeting of mayors and commissioners in a neighboring county, about 45 miles up the road from here. It was a first since the town hosting the meeting is the arch-rival of our own town with a long history of rivalry going back to the late 1800's. The mayor of M (as I shall call the neighboring town), Jack, called and invited me to attend last week. You might remember Jack from this post where he arranged for me to be railroaded into the Presidency of District 1 of the Colorado Municipal League. It is kind of funny that Jack and I have developed a relationship to get things done in cooperation just as we are both term limited out of office. I'm gone in November and Jack is done in January.

So I grabbed the city manager and we journeyed up the road to attend the meeting. We weren't sure what to expect, but expected it to be interesting none the less. We got there and were welcomed with open arms by Jack and the rest of the attendees. It turned out to be a useful meeting all around, as we got to hear what projects each of the towns and the other county were pursuing, what the biggest problems they were facing were, and how they were approaching these issues. And the interesting and unsurprising thing - they face the same problems and issues we face.

The biggest issue for all the attendees was water. Here in the water short American West, you would expect it to be the number one topic and it was. But it was like the old parable of the blind man and the elephant. Each of us had a different aspect of the water problem to consider and as a consequence it looked different but had a common theme. Some of the towns had been slow to recognize the importance of securing decreed water rights earlier and were now in the (expensive) process of acquiring some. Others had adopted long range transport of mountain water shares and were now dealing with the costs and distribution issues. Our city had the foresight to secure water rights, but we are now facing the changing regulations determining out treatment processes as discussed here. Many of the attending cities are very interested in our experience since we are the guinea pig for how to handle the new regulations. That's because we are the largest city out here and thus get stuck going first through the regulatory maze.

Then there was discussion of nuts and bolts, things like budgets and revenue projections. Topics such as potholing and crack sealing and ... One outcome was a chance to coordinate some projects to put together unified bids which might result in lower costs due to overall size. We already have one project underway between our city, M and M's sister city. It is a project to determine what would be needed to have the various railroad crossings in our communities declared part of a quiet zone. We have ~30 coal trains (one mile long trains transporting coal) a day passing over the tracks that bisect our communities. That wasn't too bad until the federal regulations on train horns changed a few years ago and they became 100dB+ annoyances at every crossing, even those controlled by gated arms and lights. But there are pathways to make such intersections controlled to a point where the train horn regulations can be abated. The problem is that a city like ours has 7 such intersections and a naive approach can cost more that $1 million per intersection to achieve quiet zone status. So the three cities pooled funds and grants to have an engineering study done to see if there weren't cost effective methods to achieve quiet. This becomes a further quality of life issue since th number of coal trains will rise to 40-50 in the coming year and may hit 100 or more in a few more years. This is because all the trains are being routed out here rather than through the high population areas due to yet another changed federal regulation.

Well, that should be enough rambling on topics of absolutely no interest to 99% of the readers of this blog.
For extra credit - did you know what potholing was before you read the link?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Writer's Wednesday

Mama Kat just keeps on issuing the Writer's Challenges. This week she offered the choice of these tasks:
1.) Describe your significant other's most attractive quality (on the inside).
2.) Tell about a time you stole something.
3.) Choose a poem you like. Take the last line and use it as the first line of your own poem. (
4.) Write about a scary encounter with one of your old professors.

It took a bit of pondering to decide which of the topics I wanted to tackle. The poem was first off the list. Even though I have had poetry published, it was more a mistake on the editors part than any ability on my part. Suffice it to say, you don't want to read my doggerel.

Stealing was the next possibility to go. I lack anything of interest to report. I may have stolen a tee on the golf course at some time (by accident), but that is the height of my career in larceny.

That leaves waxing poetic about L or writing about scary old professors. I don't have many scary encounters with professors to report and I have a hard time narrowing my view of  L down to a single quality. What to do? What to write about? I guess I'll go with the professor story.

Some background. I was ready to graduate in 3 years from the ivy league college I attended as an undergrad. But ... the college had a one year proficiency in a foreign language requirement for graduation. I had started off by taking Russian since it could be useful in my area of study. That was a fiasco. The professor kindly gave me a D for the course if I agreed to never again take a Russian language course. So the next attempt was Latin. That fared no better.

You should understand, I knew at least 30 different computer languages at that time (more now). I could absorb a computer language in days. I just could not learn a foreign human language. Things were getting a bit desperate for me. It is spring and I've already been accepted to graduate school with an assistantship, etc starting in the fall. But it is all contingent on actually graduating. In spite of the language debacles, I will still graduate cum laude if I can just get my foreign language proficiency.

Fortunately for me, the college was a pioneer in foreign language immersion as a rapid method of teaching languages. So I went to visit John Rassias , the professor who founded the program to see if there was any chance of saving my posterior. He believes that if I go to one of the off campus immersion programs, I can come back at the end of the summer and test out of the proficiency requirement. Thus I would graduate and head off to graduate school, etc. So off I head off to the School for International Living for immersion in French over the summer.

Time passes and the end of the summer arrives with me back on campus to test for proficiency. Since I only have two days to be on the way to the other coast for graduate school (if I do indeed graduate), it is decided that the French department will convene a panel to test my proficiency. Immersion programs concentrate on spoken language, so the panel exam is going to be in oral format conducted entirely in French. The next morning at 10am my future is going to be decided by three scary old professors giving me an oral exam in French. If I pass, I graduate and leave for grad school by 2pm that day. If I fail, ... Needless to say it was a tense night for me.

At 10am, I walk into the room to face three professors. John Rassias is anything but scary. He reminds me of a big friendly grizzly bear. One professor is the chairperson of the French department. She has the sternest visage of any professor I have ever had (that might be my memory colored a bit by stress). The final professor is an avuncular looking gentleman who turned out to have the sharpest tongue I have every experienced. The exam starts with John giving a background to the whole problem and laying out the task before the panel. Fortunately I can follow the whole conversation and the questions from the rest of the panel (I think to this day that John was speaking slowly for my benefit). I interject the appropriate Oui! and Non! to the questions asking if I understood the process. And then the exam began.  After an hour and a half of intense questioning and conversation, the panel begins its debate. At least 20 minutes is spent listening to the panel argue, in French, as to whether I should pass or not. Do you know how stressful it is to listen to your future being discussed in a language you are still uncomfortable in, hoping you didn't miss something that was important, and answering the occasional volley when a new area of probing is suggested by the panel? I do. At noon I finally walked with shaky legs and a signed proficiency letter to give to the registrar. But first I had to find a restroom.

In looking back, the whole experience made graduate school easy for me. My thesis qualifying exam and even my orals were trivial compared to the stress of my French oral. Having been through that experience, I never again worried about facing a test or thinking on my feet. It also was the real beginning of my comfort in talking to public audiences. After all, what is a crowd going to do to me that a panel of professors didn't.

Now on to something more fun to reward you for putting up with my meandering story. Here's a chance to see how old you really act.  I came out with this smiling fellow when I tried it:

You Act Like You Are 23 Years Old

You are a twenty-something at heart. You feel like an adult, and you're optimistic about life.

You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

You're still figuring out your place in the world and how you want your life to shape up.

The world is full of possibilities, and you can't wait to explore many of them.

Not too bad other than guessing 30+ years wrong on the age. How did you do?

Thoughtful Tuesday

Last week I had to tell an organization that I could not accept their leadership position. It was not an easy decision, especially because it is an organization I have been involved with for years and believe in. I just didn't have the resources to commit to the task. And yet it still bothers me that I had to say no. I think it bothers me more than anything that I *know* I could help them meet their needs and goals.

Just so you can understand, the organization is the Boy Scouts. In yet another re-organization of territories, they have created a new district out here that includes much of eastern Colorado and parts of the panhandle of Nebraska. I was asked to become the District Chairman for the new district, a volunteer position comparable to president or director. I admit I thought long and hard about it. I have served for years on a local troop committee. L has driven the canoe trailer to many an event and even spent tropical deluges camping with the troop. I was a Boy Scout in the same local troop (albeit 40+ years ago) whose committee I now serve on. The Son was Boy Scout in the same troop. All these things conspired to made it really hard for me to say no.

In the end I just had to say no because I am unable to commit to the demands of the position at the current time. So my points after all the meandering around are:
     Have you ever had to turn down something similar?
     Did it bother you that you had to say no?

Time to get ready for the city council meeting.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Delurking Day 2009

Today is International Delurking Day 2009
Come out of lurking and leave a comment. You know you can do it!
(Or else I'll have to hunt you down and ...)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Meanderings for the Terminally Insane

It must be Sunday - it seems that every Sunday the blogger interface drops the top menu bar and reverts to a font calculated to make me blinder than I already am. But I am fooling the gremlins of software! I can type blind just as badly as the next person.

Today was one of those days that the thermometer says one thing, but the body says another. The thermometer said 40, but the wind chill said 10. Needless to say, walking into the breeze during the stroll Molly, L, and I took in the park early in the afternoon was a biting experience. According to the friendly (but seldom correct) weather people, the next week is supposed to be cool to cold out here on the plains. In a rarity, it is supposed to be cooler out here that in the foothills and Denver. Sometimes we get all the luck. Still no snow or other moisture out here either.

After our walk, I played car repairman on L's vehicle. Her windshield washer had stopped spraying. Given that she is up in the mountains with all the snow up there, it is important that the washer work. Colorado uses magnesium chloride in place of salt as a deicer on the roads, which is ecologically friendly, but leaves a slush that is about like light crude oil in color and viscosity. Thus, whenever a truck runs by, you need to have working washers or be prepared to drive blind. Back to the topic at hand, taking the molding plastic off and un-kinking the hose fixed it all. Evidently it got kinked when they removed and replaced it to put in the new windshield this summer and it had finally closed off under the heat-cold cycle of winter. Routed it through the groves in the molding as designed and all should now work fine. I will undoubtedly hear about it if it doesn't.

Other than that, I have been battling a sinus headache all day. That alone makes me think that the aforementioned weather people might have it right. Big changes in air pressure and I can almost guarantee my sinuses are going to hurt. There must be somewhere where the air pressure is constant year round.

(I must have gotten to them with all my typos - the blogger interface just popped back to normal and the font is big enough for me to actually see. Just goes to show that even software programs can only take so much!)

I got a chance to test some of my home-brew software in the thrown together PVR today. You remember it was my current obsession as discussed here . So I used it to record the play-off games today with my automatic ad removal engine in running in real time. It only crashed and burned a couple of times, so it is getting closer to being usable. Still needs a lot of code cleaning and optimizing since it can pull a machine with dual 3GHz processors right down to it's knees, utilizing both CPU cores to 100% for periods. (Are you bored enough with this techno babble yet?) Here's a picture of the system in operation as I compose this post with the game playback marked in red.

L got headed off back to the mountains earlier in the evening, so Molly is lying in her bed moping. Molly will mope for about 16 hours, then return to her normal bouncy self. The only hope of early recovery is the sighting of a squirrel in the yard. It's amazing how dogs are observant enough to sense when one they love is getting ready to leave. Within an hour or so of L's planned departure, Molly starts laying on the floor at L's feet and watching L with sadness in her eyes. Then she gravitates to the garage door and watches as the people go back and forth. Then, when L leaves, she immediately heads to her bed and lays there, looking like the world has come to an end. So I leave you with this picture of Molly moping in her laundry room bed.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Stupid Saturday

Today is a special day here at The Art of Panic. It is our inaugural Stupid Saturday, where in we hope to illustrate that there is hope for those on the wrong side of the Darwinian curve after all. That is, they might make an appearance here on the way to extinction and thus serve as a lesson to all.

First up is this gentleman who seems to be lacking some essential clues about mating:

THOMAS TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Police say a Michigan man has been arrested after "receiving sexual favors from a vacuum" at a car wash.
The Saginaw News reports the 29-year-old Swan Creek Township man was arrested Thursday in Saginaw County's Thomas Township, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit.
Police Sgt. Gary Breidinger says a resident called to report suspicious activity at the car wash about 6:45 a.m. An officer approached on foot and caught the man in the act.
The suspect, whose name wasn't immediately released, is being held in the Saginaw County Jail.

Next is the enterprising woman who accidentally got rid of her husband in an unexpected manner:

ST PETERSBURG - A Russian woman in St Petersburg killed her drunk husband with a folding couch, Russian media reported on Wednesday.
St Petersburg's Channel Five said the man's wife, upset with her husband for being drunk and refusing to get up, kicked a handle after an argument, activating a mechanism that folds the couch up against a wall.
The couch, which doubles as a bed, folds up automatically in order to save space. The man fell between the mattress and the back of the couch, Channel Five quoted emergency workers as saying.
The woman then walked out of the room and returned three hours later to check on what she thought was an unusually quiet sleeping husband.
Video on the television channel's website showed emergency workers sawing away the side panels of a couch to remove a man in his underwear lying headfirst between the cushions.
Emergency workers said the man died instantly.

Next up, we consider the "be careful where you put it" line of reasoning as exposed in the Orlando Sentinel :

A 27-year-old Deltona woman told authorities she bit her husband's penis because she didn't want to have sex with him.
Charris Bowers was arrested Saturday by a Volusia County sheriff's deputy, accused of misdemeanor battery. A judge set her free Sunday without requiring her to post bail.
Her husband, Delou Bowers, today would not comment.
According to a sheriff's office report, the Bowerses had been to a bar Friday night. Delou Bowers told authorities that when they got home, his wife began to perform oral sex on him but then began to bite his penis.
He tried to stop her, he told a deputy, but she kept at it. He then began to punch her in the head and pushed her to the floor, and she let go, according to the arrest report.
Charris Bowers gave the officer two versions of what happened. She first said she was sitting on the couch when her husband walked over and put his penis in her mouth, according to the report.
"She then bit it to get him away from her," the report said.
She later said her husband walked over with his penis exposed, and she bit it.
Either way, the deputy saw the injury, photographed it then arrested Mrs. Bowers.

Finally, we come to the close of this issue with a simple "don't try this at home" picture:

It might keep the dust out, but it might also lead to an appearance here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Money ad nauseum

I saw that the topic of the day over at One-Minute Writer was: "Can money buy happiness?" I want to consider the obverse: "Can lack of money cause unhappiness?" That is because I firmly believe that money cannot buy happiness, but I almost as firmly believe that lack of money can cause unhappiness. So how do I support my feeling that lack of money can cause unhappiness?

The prime example supporting the thesis can be found every day in the world around us. People (adults and children) are condemned to death simply because there is no money to pay for the drugs or the operation or the food or ... that would keep them alive. The failure to prevent senseless deaths for want of as little as $15 per year per person seems to be a real indictment of humanity. But the issue as far as the thesis here can be reduced to the question of whether death can be equated to unhappiness in some way.

I know that some would argue that death is not unhappiness. The Christian far right and religions with a tradition of belief in martyrdom would argue that death and the subsequent journey to heaven is the opposite of unhappiness.  After all, consider the rapture of conservative Christianity and the martyrdom of conservative Islam and other such teachings of other religions. I don't have any unique insight as to whether the victims themselves are unhappy, but I would argue that even if the victim was not unhappy, the circle of friends and family connected to the victim certainly are. It is the rare parent indeed that is not unhappy to see their child die. It is even rarer for any person not to have emotional ties to other people such that those people are not unhappy to see them die.

So I'll leave it open to the theologians and moralists for a "politically correct" answer. But my personal answer has to be that a lack of money can indeed cause unhappiness. Being a logical sort, you'll note I immediately pushed the argument right to the wall in equating death to unhappiness. That is because illuminating a question in black and white can make the shiftiness of shades of gray less entrapping. No matter whether you want to push it to the edge or not, you probably have an opinion on the question. So - Can lack of money cause unhappiness?

[ As and aside: I have to say that the ammo for Stupid Saturday is growing by leaps and bounds. While I really want to thank the universe for stepping up and making tomorrow's post easy, I am at the same time very concerned for the survival of the world as we know it. It is probably good that intelligence is not a required trait for species survival. More tomorrow. ]

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Comment Moderation?

As I travel the blogosphere, I am puzzled by those blogs that moderate the comments. It is curious to me that some people feel that they have to moderate the comments and others just have the standard minimal captchas as a machine generated spam weeder. It seems to bear no relationship to the volume of visitors or number of comments or any other visible causative agent. So that of course left my mind running through the possible reasons that an author would chose to moderate the comments. I can understand perfectly the need for private blogs, etc. It's just the comment moderation that seems a bit odd.

The very first possibility that came to mind was the simple prevention of machine based comment spamming (otherwise know as botnet attacks). That seems suspect because I haven't yet seen any raw spamming of an unmoderated blog that has reasonable captcha authentication. I have even seen a couple of sites that have no captcha requirement, but simply put up an error message every time a comment is posted, forcing the comment author to re-submit the comment before it is accepted. It would seem that such sites would be extremely vulnerable to spamming, but I have not seen hints of it happening yet. Maybe the time delay to re-submit is enough to deter the machine spammers.

The next possibility that came to mind was cyber-stalking activity. People being stalked on the internet might feel vulnerable to allowing comments from the stalker to appear on the blog, implying a relationship that does not exist in reality. The problem with that hypothesis is that anyone being seriously cyber-stalked has probably moved the blog private so they can control who is reading what.

Then of course there is the possibility that they are simply trying to avoid offensive comments. But that would seem to fall under the same category as the first possibility. It also seems if it was going to be a real problem, it should have been apparent on the blogs which are not moderated (even some of the sex related ones which would be the obvious target). The only way this idea makes sense is if certain posters draw certain types of commentators. I suppose this is possible.

Another thought that came to mind was the need of some people to be in absolute control of their environment. I.e. in words of the vernacular, they are control freaks. I cannot think of any reasonable refutation for this possibility.

Along similar lines is the fear of the possibility of disagreeable comments, be they pornographic, spammish, whatever. Just the fear that it might happen could be bad enough to tempt some people to turn on the moderation button.

The final possibility that comes to my mind is the presence of one or a small group of people with a target relationship to the blog author that have been problematic in the past. This could include the Ex from h*ll that leaves bitter and vituperative comments, the former friend that just wants to snipe, you name it. This actually seems like a reasonable cause for moderation.

I'll close with a request of those of you who read this blog: why did you decide to either moderate or not moderate your comments? Were any of my guesses close to the mark? Am I just an insane idiot? No wait! don't answer that!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Writer's Challenge Response

Mama Kat 's been at it again with a new Writer's Challenge . This one was a bit tough for me to respond to because some of it is ground I already covered here and some of it ... So here it all is in the form of a Q and A session.

4.) Tell us about your pet! If you have a weird infatuation with your dog or cat we want to hear about it (or if they just plain drive you crazy)...but please don't compare them to children. It's just not the same.

If you want to hear about the dogs of our married life, go here . It was a topic a bit ago.

3.) Who was your first bloggy friend? How did you find each other? Do you still correspond?

Given that I am prehistoric in computer years, my first online friends predate blogs and even the existence of the internet as we know it. I don't know that there was a first that I can single out, but there is a group of people from that time were dedicated sounding boards and late night talkers.

We met via various BBS's from technical and management discussion issues. Many of the acquaintances made then survived the development of the internet and changes in our various life directions. It was interesting to see discussions move from BBSes to email to the predecessors of chat rooms to ... The dynamics changed at each stage and the people involved changed as well since we were all growing up and having families and ... Not all that different than what happens today as people shift from chat to blog to twitter to skype to vlog to ...

I still occasionally talk to some of them (now more than 20 years later), but the conversations have tapered off as we all headed of in different directions - personally, professionally, and geographically. One is a professor at Harvey Mudd College, another is a teacher at an Indian reservation college, one died, another went insane, ...

You didn't ask about the real nut cases met via the internet. One of the more outstanding oddballs used to wear a loaded sidearm into the server room, run a porno empire's servers as his second job, had a duly certified art school that he owned and ran (specializing is certain types of art if you get my drift), and registered really odd domains just so he could make puns on the names. Other than that he was a pretty normal nerd. I still get a note from him every couple of years now. [As an example, he once registered the domain just so he could claim to be the root of all evil ( *AND* he put it as the logo on his business cards.]

2.) Ask a loved one to use 6 descriptive words to describe you and report your findings. How well do they know you?

Given that L is under the weather, the words would probably have been "go away and let me be", which doesn't say a lot about how well she knows me. After 30+ years of marriage and close to 40 years of knowing each other, we probably know each other as well as two individuals can know each other. As my mother put it a few years ago when we had been married for longer than I lived with her and dad - "You've had him longer than I did; any thing you don't like is your problem now."

1.) Describe your latest obsession.

I've been looking at memory models and their interaction with digital TV. This is brought on by the PVR craze typified by Tivo and others. Some of my earlier work work before Tivo existed was in the development of context sensitive search relevance and how it applied to digital TV guides. Now you can build your own digital TV with your own program guides with  about $20 of hardware from EBay and some programming elbow grease on top of Open Source software.

Why is this my obsession of the week? Because you can do a great amount with very little and the problems all are amenable to solution by divide and conquer - i.e. you don't have to have a blinding flash of insight to see a solution, just break the problem into pieces and solve each piece in a workman like way. It means one can get enjoyment without delaying gratification for long periods. But there are also places where a flash of insight could change the whole view of how to approach the problem. So you get the quickies and the long term rewards as well.
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