Saturday, December 30, 2006

First Ever Blondie (well, Conga)

I was watching America's Test Kitchen today and they made brownies and blondies.

I'd never really heard of blondies, but it sounded intriguing. Of course they spiced it up by adding coconut, which turns them into Conga bars.

Now that I've made them, I must say, "bravo!"

Too bad there won't be any left by the time most of y'all read this.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Oooh, snap!

An article about NoKA's chocolates lays bare the ridiculous overpricing of their chocolates, and their misleading marketing.

I did find out there are some wonderful chocolatiers in Portland though: Alma Chocolate, DePaula Confections, and Sahagun Chocolates. Mmmm.... chocolate.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Neato!

It's a mash-up of wiki and Google map. Pretty slick.

This is Moab.

This is our home.

Seven Months (and two days)

She's growing fast. We think she's finally plumping up. See, she's been growing longer every day, but hasn't put on much weight. But it now looks like she's starting to bulk up like most babies.

She's cuter than ever, and beginning to sit up on her own. We're still waiting for her to roll over.

Christmas was fun, but I'm pretty sure next year will be even better. I figure it'll be more fun when Simone actually knows that Christmas is happening. This year, she slept through some of the opening of gifts. Somewhat surprisingly, she didn't get any clothes for Christmas, just wonderful toys and books.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

What an Insult

So, the feud between Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell is making the rounds. Rosie gave The Donald (what a stupid moniker) a hard time for pretending to be a moral compass to the Miss USA (who was caught drinking under-age, partying, and kissing Miss Teen).

The Donald hit back with the quote, "Maybe she wanted to put the crown back on Miss USA's head. I think she's very attracted to Miss USA so she probably wanted to put the crown on her head herself."

What? Rosie is openly gay, so saying that she's attracted to Miss USA is as insulting as telling a straight man "you like Miss USA" Um.... DUH. I mean, she won Miss USA, so that goes without saying. She's beautiful.

The Donald really needs to work on his trash talk, he would get schooled by any second grader out there.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Festivus for the Rest of Us

Simone's latest thing is that she can say, "baa baa baa baa." And she does so very well. She kept herself up two nights ago for hours doing that.

We're gonna have a great Christmas - spending it with my folks this year (we switch off). We plan on having pork pie for dinner the night before, a fresh ham for Christmas. Of course there will be the obligatory cinnamon rolls. And, of course, presents.

My favorite Christmas movie has to be Southpark's starting point The Spirit of Christmas. Note: the movie is not so kid friendly, but is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

Merry Chistmas to all my loyal viewers, all 2.5 of you.

An apt analysis of Bush's end of the year speech

A good analysis of W's end of the year speech, and how he he thinks his will alone will lead to victory in Iraq.

Another reason to love Oil

The subsidies we pay aren't buying us much. I bet we'd get a lot more bang for the buck investing that money in renewable energy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stationery Movies

I'm up to 10/20 so far. How well can you do?

Update: 13/20 now.

The choice is yours...

I just found out about Newcomb's Paradox. Intellectually, I can see where some of the paradox is, but the answer seems very straight forward to me. What would you choose?

I choose the closed box.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Family Portrait

Yup, another rant, I'm on a roll here.

Mary's bank (well, our bank) gave her/us a family portrait at a local studio. So we got all gussied up and went to take pictures. We liked one of them well enough to fall for the sales pitch and get an 8"x10".

Neither Mary nor I ever figured we'd have one of those. We have nothing against family portraits, it just didn't seem like "us." Anyway, we knew we wanted to get a photo of all of us at this time, and all the pictures taken so far either seem to be me and Simone, Mary and Simone, or just Simone. So the stars were aligned.

I picked up the photo the other day - it looked nice, but I noticed something unexpected. They'd signed the corner of it. I've since learned that this is common practice, but I was a bit miffed. I don't really feel like hanging an advertisement in my living room. If I were to do that, I'd expect a nice discount on the photo. The portraits hung in the studio itself certainly don't have their signature (and why not? b/c it looks tacky).

The studio was considerate enough to say they'd reprint the photo for us, and I'm happy to tell you which studio took the photo (click on the link at the top of the page if you care).

Monday, December 18, 2006

bigsaceworm

We've done it, we've switched to Vonage (well, Qwest gets us for another 2-3 weeks until the phone number switches over). Vonage finally got numbers local to Corvallis, so we could keep our number. And now we'll no longer be gouged by Qwest for nearly 3X what Vonage charges.

And, it was super easy to install, just as easy as the Mac mini. I plugged it in (got the phone cord in the wrong port at first - and the phone gladly told me I did it wrong), and I could make calls. Vonage has all the features I'd ever want: voice mail, call waiting, call forwarding, completely configurable. And there are features I didn't know I wanted (but are cool) - ability to listen to voicemail over the net, get email notification of voice mail, and ability to take the phone with us wherever we go (that has high-speed internet).

Actually ordering was a bit of a pain - the web page wouldn't work for some reason, so I called. And they have to run you through the ringer, repeatedly telling you about the ramifications of 911 calling. But I sat through it patiently.

However, I'm coming to really dislike the outsourcing of phone services. The lady I ordered Vonage from was a little difficult to understand. And ... she screwed up both my name and the login id. Thus, the title of this post "bigsaceworm" WTF And they can't change it - it's tied to the account number (poor software design there folks). And they had my name as Mcdonald, not MacDonald. I spelled it out for them, and while 'eff' may sort of sound like 'ess', 'em-ay-see' doesn't sound like 'em-see'. It should have tipped me off when she asked if I was the owner of the fast-food chain (and the banter continued with asking me about the king of pop).

Wonder how most people do

How do you do trying to place states on a map?

I got 80% right, average distance of 51 miles, and took 528 seconds (granted, I was in a meeting while playing it).

I think the test would be better if you didn't get to use the already placed states as guides, b/c the last 1/3 of the challenge is pretty easy because most of the map is already filled in.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

State of Denial

I just finished the book, State of Denial by Bob Woodward. I picked it up from the library (after being 37th on the waiting list) about three weeks ago. I'd have finished it sooner, but Simone is much more fun to play with than it is to read about Bush & Rumsfeld fcsking up Iraq (and in the process, the U.S.).

I knew I'd get angry reading the book, but I was surprised how depressing it is. Only Bush/Rumsfeld/Powell/Rice/Card really know what happened in their meetings, yet, even without Woodward's inside accounts from people who were there, it's obvious we screwed up Iraq. We had no plan for what to do after the invasion, and conditions there (now 3+ years after the initial invasion) are no better than when Saddam was in power (and they're getting worse).

My take on what's reported by Woodward: Bush has the intellectual curiosity of a rock (whether he's smart or not, I don't know, he just doesn't seem to want to learn), Rumsfeld is a power-monger who avoids taking real responsibility. I can't even imagine what possessed them to decide to go into Iraq, nor how they can continue (to this day) to deny the reality of what is happening on the ground.

And, I'm surprisingly frustrated with Powell. A friend at work said he supported going into Iraq - mostly because if Powell said they had WMD, they did. Powell was at the peak of his political power at the beginning of the war, and he did not stand up to Bush/Cheney/whomever was pushing for this war. I expected more from him.

I guess the war is analogous to the guy who "solved" the divide-by-zero problem. They're both just so fundamentally flawed at so many levels that it leaves one at a loss for words.

18.286 seconds

So, the meme on this link is that the Air Force expects its pilots to last 2 minutes in this game. The goal is to keep the red square from touching the blue ones or the black border. And supposedly if you can keep it from being hit for 18 seconds, you're doing awesome.

Well, I made it 18.286 seconds on the 7th or 8th try. It's really not difficult mostly because the movement of the blue squares is deterministic, and you can get to 11 seconds by making three basics moves (down to the bottom, then up the the top left, and then down the left side). Doing that with the appropriate pauses (long time in the top left) and you've got 11 seconds.

Perhaps if the pattern of the blue squares was different each run I could believe this might be used in the Air Force as a little gimmick. But not if it's deterministic. People with those kinds of reflexes would quickly spot the patterns and keep on building on their time - and it'd be incredibly dull.

It seemed as though the blue squares sped up all of a sudden at 18 seconds, but I'm not going to play any longer b/c it's gotten dull for me. I'd never make 20 seconds, but I'm pretty sure I could hit 18 seconds on a regular basis.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Grrr... not as easy as it should be

The reasons we bought a Mac were three-fold:

1) Mary first learned computers on a Mac and really likes them

2) Macs are easy to use and configure

3) Macs are supposed to be wonderful for creative arts - such as drawing/photoshoping/editing movies/etc.

Well, I beg to differ with #3. For one simple reason - the Mac doesn't natively grok MPEG2 format. Huh??? That just happens to be the encoding of all video on DVDs - and it's been a standard since 1994. Oh, and when you go to Apple's web site asking for information on how to deal with video in that format, they just say that iMovie can only edit video and audio streams when they are in different streams (i.e. not interlaced, as is done in mpeg2).

Fine... Great... Just give me the option to import it. But no... you have to find some 2nd party utility to do the job. It turns out, the software they sort of recommend also requires a $20 plugin for Quicktime. Fine, an extra $20, not a big deal, but you're still have to convert the movies outside of iMove and then import them.

Come on, what a crok. Maybe they don't support the mpeg2 b/c of licencing issues or they're afraid of the MPAA. But that doesn't make sense because you can buy the plugin that plays mpeg2... So why? And why not have a very simple guide as to how to do the conversion.

Anyway, the Mac is pissing me off right now.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Power Out

We had a little power outage last night. The northwest had a wonderful storm with winds up to 70mph. So, Simone got to fall asleep to candle-light and the sounds of our voices singing to her (or humming when we couldn't remember the words).

Given that we didn't know how long the power was going to be out, I quickly devoured the peppermint patties.

Regardless, the power is back up, and we weathered it just fine. Simone got to experience her first power outage (and first hail).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Six and a half months

So, Simone is getting longer and longer, 27.5" right now, and weighing in at 14.5 pounds. She's just a happy little baby.

She just found her feet yesterday, and loves to play with them. She's also splashing lots when taking baths, and she went swimming with Mary just a few days ago.

While she's not rolling over yet, she's sitting up real straight, and loves to gum a drinking cup while sitting in her high chair.

WWJP

What would Jesus play?

I've a feeling he wouldn't be playing this game. It's got a very loving theme, along the lines of "convert or die."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Brings back nightmares

So, there's this nob at the University of Reading who says he's solved the divide by zero problem (well, one video talks about how he solves 0^0, but the full feature discusses dividing by zero).

First of all, if you're going to say you've come up with some newfangled math thing, at least pretend to work at a relevant school, perhaps the "University of Arithmetic" or "College of Numbers" - no, he's going for Reading.

Secondly, he's showing it off at some grade school? I would think that something (seemingly) on par with coming up with imaginary numbers would be earth-shattering and discussed at institutes of higher learning around the world. But no, he's "enlightening" grade school kids. Evidently, they're the only ones not educated enough to tell him he's full of it.

Lastly, at least pass your "theory" by a couple of people before blabbing to the local media. Apparently, the BBC has about as much scientific credibility as USA Today does - none.

The responses to the feature are pretty funny, just scroll down the page to see them.

This all reminds me of a class I took in college, which I briefly discussed here.

If this were April 1st, I could understand, but it's not. I'm baffled how people can be so cluelessly wrong.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

So Exciting

We really need to get some video of Simone being excited. All sorts of things get her going - most recently it's the top of your head (hair) and my Cal hat. She gets all quivery. Here are some pictures that try to capture the excitement.




Here she's just being cute.



More of a vanity pose here:

Walkies

Simone and I have had a couple of really nice walks recently. It snowed about a week ago, check out the field across the street:



I think she grooved on the brightness of all the snow, though her nose got quite cold.

This past weekend, Mary had a conference in Portland. To pass the time, Simone and I walked in Forest Park for a little bit. I got many compliments on the beautiful baby (which she is). Here are some self-portraits:





Saturday night, Simone and I walked around my old neighborhood. One problem with having Simone facing out in the sling is that I cannot tell when she's asleep. So I try to take pictures to see if her eyes are closed:



Kind of tough when it's dark out, eh? She had finally fallen asleep.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Words Of Wisdom

If our society is set up to reward, not the people who make things, but the people who place bets on the people who make things, then eventually there will be more speculators than speculatees. Market forces, right?

I understand that I am fighting a battle that was lost 50 years ago. Values are not going to change; the underlying system is not going to change. One could, though, adjust tax policies so that the very rich were paying more of the crippling medical costs the very rich are creating by rewarding insurance and pharmaceutical companies for maximizing profit. Just a thought.

From Jon Carroll.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Way Neat

This guy does a new drawing every day. What makes it real neat is he video tapes the drawing and lets you see the creation as it unfolds (each drawing is between 1 and 2 minutes).

Hat tip to Ze who is also doing his own daily show.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More firsts

Today I fed Simone from a bottle (good breast milk, lovingly pumped) and it went pretty well. And just yesterday she ate her first solid food - just a little bit of sweet potato.

Things are changing fast.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Half a year old

Simone turned 6 months today. And to celebrate, she decided to roll over, from her front to her back. It happened very fast but I was lucky enough to see it. Mary and I pestered her for a while afterwards, but she couldn't quite do it a second time (she tried hard).

And I just received this great picture of her from Mary's mom:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

6 months - 4 days

Simone will turn 6 months in 4 short days.

Her favorite new activity is drinking from a glass. More correctly put, gumming the edge of a glass, sticking her tongue in it/under it like a proboscis. She gets very excited, quivery even, when the given the chance to drink from a glass. We're thinking of doing without a sippy cup (no binky has worked well so far).

Simone is very close to rolling over, and her coordination has gotten very good. I still beat her in thumb wrestling and rock-paper-scissors, but she's getting better. She now realizes that a dropped toy hasn't disappeared from the universe, but is likely just out of sight, right by her head.

She's very interested in the world and in other people, usually giving her cutest smile anytime a stranger comes along. She giggles a few times a day, and has this odd coughing (sounds like the fake cough little kids do) when she's excited.

As it has always been, Simone gets very excited at diaper changing time. Heaven help us if we need to change her in the middle of the night because she'll wake up and start playing the "I'm so cute" card. It's very hard to not giggle with her (which would mean staying up for an hour).

She's still pretty thin - a number of other babies born around her time are 6 or 7 pounds larger than her (but they're gargantuan), but we're not worried b/c she's eating like a champ.

All in all, we're very lucky to have such a cute, healthy, happy girl.

YASOGO

Yet another sign of getting old.

We had a date tonight, the second since Simone was born (a lovely friend of ours offered to baby-sit. We stopped by Safeway on the way home to pick up some brussel sprouts for dinner tomorrow (they, like all other stores in the area have none). A bottle of wine seemed like an appropriate gift as we are going to Mary's folks place. When the scanning machine chimed to remind the cashier to check my id, I offered it. She stopped me by saying, "I don't need that, you're old."

Of course, she topped it by mentioning my gray hair a few sentences later.

Old I tell you, old.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Study on WIC's promotion of infant formula instead of breast feeding

I'd heard a lot of this information before from Mary (given her background, that's to be expected). But I didn't realize that WIC was so intertwined with infant formula.

There are so many reasons people should breast feed their babies, and I certainly don't appreciate the government influencing people away from breast feeding.

The article is here.

Fun Fun

I saw this way back when it was created, but now it's got its own domain name and everything. What's real fun is all the videos people have made. The first few are really fantastic.

Amazing what such a simple concept can spawn.

LineRider

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Simply Beautiful

The 2006 winners of the fractal art contest.

A few months ago, Mary and I were at an art fair of sorts, and a guy was selling his fractal art. It was nice, but nothing like the images in the link above.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Unbelievable

Just last week I wrote about names. Just a couple days later I heard the worst name ever you could give someone:

Dick Hyman

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Another Milestone Reached

Sigh....

Further evidence that I'm old.

Right now, as I type this, I'm wearing my leather slippers and white socks. Yes, at the same time.

In my defense, I was just wearing the socks b/c I'd taken my shoes off (we're a mostly shoe-free house). I was padding around the house in my socks, happy as could be. But then I needed to divvy up the beef, which is in the garage. I was too lazy to take my socks off, but I didn't want to get them dirty. Plus, the extra insulation would be warm (the garage is cold).

So I didn't plan to wear them together, it just happened.

Hmmm... that applies to getting old as well.

It's What's For Dinner

Mary and I just bought 1/8 of a cow. Actually, we bought 1/4 cow with Miles and split it. The meat is grass-fed and local and all that - everything we've bought from them has been uber-tasty, so we're just buying in bulk now.

We recently bought a freezer (kind of a necessity when you're going to buy 100 pounds of meat). The freezer is in the garage - I got to be Mr. HandyMan and cut out 3 feet of the existing shelving to make space for it.

I picked the meat up on Thursday and took stock of it today - splitting evenly so Miles gets his fair share. He wanted the ribs, and I didn't really care. Surprisingly, out of the 100 pounds of meat, only about 5 were ribs. Maybe I had visions of Fred Flintstone's rack of ribs in the intro to the show.

Anyway, 1/4 cow got us about 100 pounds of meat (from about 162 pounds hanging weight), 40 pounds of it is hamburger, about 13 pounds of steaks, 5 ribs, 8 pounds of stew meat, 7 pounds of soup bones, and the rest as a variety of roasts.

Now the trick is to make sure we actually eat it, and don't just hoard it like we seem to do with food.

Pacman funny

http://themot.org/gallery/d/58721-1/pacmanchart.pnghttp://themot.org/gallery/d/58721-1/pacmanchart.png

Friday, November 03, 2006

s1m0ne

Just this week we were talking about names at work, and how people get teased or get nicknames.

Miles had a bunch (I can see for miles..., miles from nowhere..., kilometer, etc.)

Andrew didn't want to relive the horrors of his youth.

A favorite of mine was a variant of the one-armed/one-legged person jokes: What do you call a man with no arms and no legs sitting in a cafeteria? Trey

Of course Jeff had us all beat. His last name is Weener.

But, working at Intel, everyone thinks they're just clever as all get out when they call Simone s1m0ne.

They're not.

Ha, Math Humor for the Day

Check it out.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happy Halloween

Simone did get dressed up for Halloween this year. We weren't really planning anything - she slept through the trick-or-treat festivities downtown. However, Mary and I thought it'd be nice to take a walk before the rain started.

My mom found a cow outfit a few weeks ago, and we figured it would be perfect to keep Simone warm and to dress up. Sure enough, it fit like a glove. Here are some pics from the Halloween night.

First she had to get a bath to be ready for dress-up.


Then she gets dressed up in her cow outfit.


And lastly, we're outside.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Harsh words that ring true

Wow. Keith Olbermann pulls no punches and sends a message that should be heard by all.

A transcript can be found here, as well as links to the original broadcast:
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/102406J.shtml

I must say, it is about time reporters started saying things like this as opposed to simply repeating the "news" given them by W and Cheney.

The ad Olbermann talks about does sound like a wild swing of a boxer who's on his last legs. Though I've been hoping that's the case for a long while and people still seem to believe in W.

Sadly, I imagine W is going to retire and believe he did such a good job as President. I wish someone would clue him in.

Update Oct. 27, 2006, 8:22pm:
Just so I have it in case the link goes bad, here's the transcript:

Advertising Terrorism
By Keith Olbermann
MSNBC Countdown

Monday 23 October 2006

The key to terrorism is not the act - but the fear of the act.

Tonight, a special comment on the advertising of terrorism - the commercial you have already seen.

It is a distillation of everything this administration and the party in power have tried to do these last five years and six weeks.

It is from the Republican National Committee;

It shows images of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri;

It offers quotes from them - all as a clock ticks ominously in the background.

It concludes with what Zawahiri may or may not have said to a Pakistani journalist as long ago as 2001: His dubious claim that he had purchased "suitcase bombs."

The quotation is followed (by sheer coincidence no doubt) by an image of a massive explosion.

"These are the stakes," appears on the screen, quoting exactly from Lyndon Johnson's infamous nuclear scare commercial from 1964.

"Vote - November 7th."

There is a cheap "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" quality to the whole thing, and it also serves to immediately call to mind the occasions when President Bush dismissed Osama bin Laden as somebody he didn't think about - except, obviously, when elections were near.

Frankly, a lot of people seeing that commercial for the first time, have laughed out loud.

But - not everyone.

And therein lies the true threat to this country.

The dictionary definition of the word "terrorize" is simple and not open to misinterpretation:

"To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear."

Note please, that the words "violence" and "death" are missing from that definition.

The key to terror, the key to terrorism, is not the act - but the fear of the act.

That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotaped statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them?

Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; The Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home.

Only the Republicans have a bigger bank roll.

When, last week, the CNN network ran video of an insurgent in Iraq, evidently stalking and killing an American soldier, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, branded that channel, quote, "the publicist for an enemy propaganda film" and that CNN used it "to sell commercials."

Another California Republican, Rep. Brian Bilbray, called the video "nothing short of a terrorist snuff film."

If so, Mr. Bilbray, then what in the hell is your Party's new advertisement?

And Mr. Hunter, CNN using the video to "sell commercials"?

Commercials!

You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee!

"To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear."

By this definition, the people who put these videos together - first the terrorists and then the administration - whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking - they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaida.

But the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

Eleven Presidents ago, a chief executive reassured us that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself."

His distant successor has wasted his administration insisting that there is nothing we can have but fear itself.

The vice president, as recently as this month, was caught campaigning with the phrase "mass death in the United States."

Four years ago it was the now-Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, rationalizing Iraq with "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Days later Mr. Bush himself told an audience that "we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

And now we have this cheesy commercial - complete with images of a faked mushroom cloud, and implications of "mass death in America."

This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror.

It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and that only you can save them.

Lyndon Johnson used it to bury Barry Goldwater.

Joe McCarthy leaped from obscurity on its back.

And now the legacy has come to President George Bush.

Of course, the gruel of fear is getting thinner and thinner, is it not, Mr. President?

And thus more and more of it needs to be made out of less and less actual terror.

After last week's embarrassing Internet hoax about ‘dirty bombs' at football stadiums, the one your Department of Homeland Security immediately disseminated to the public, a self-described "former CIA operative" named Wayne Simmons, cited the fiasco as "the, and I mean the, perfect example of the President's Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NSA terrorist eavesdropping program - how vital they are."

Frank Gaffney, once a respected assistant secretary of defense and now the president of something called the Center for Security Policy, added, "one of the things that I hope Americans take away from this, is not only that they're gunning for us not just in a place like Iraq - but truly, worldwide."

Of course, the "they" to which Mr. Gaffney referred, turned out to be a lone 20-year-old grocery bagger from Wisconsin named Jake - a kid, trying to one-up some other loser in an Internet game of chicken.

His "threat," referenced seven football stadiums at which dirty bombs were to be exploded yesterday. It began with the one in New York City - even though there isn't one in New York City. And though the attacks were supposed to be simultaneous, four of the games were scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET and the others at 4 p.m. ET.

More over, the kid said he'd posted the identical message on 40 websites since September.

We caught him in "merely" about six weeks, even though the only way he could have been less subtle, less stealthy, and less of a threat was if he'd bought an advertisement on the Super Bowl broadcast.

Mr. Bush, this is the - what? - 100th plot your people have revealed, that turned out to be some nonsensical misunderstanding, or the fabrications of somebody hoping to talk his way off a water board in Eastern Europe?

If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work that your new ad implies that only you and not the Democrats can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions.

The real question of course, Mr. Bush, is why did your Department of Homeland Security even release this information in the first place?

It was never a serious threat. Even the first news accounts quoted a Homeland spokesman as admitting "strong skepticism" - the kind of strong skepticism which most government agencies address before telling the public, not afterwards.

So that leaves two options, Mr. President.

The first option: you and your department of Homeland Security don't have the slightest idea what you're doing. Thus, contrary to your flip-flopping between saying "we're safe" and saying "but we're not safe enough," and contrary to the vice president's swaggering pronouncements about the lack of another attack since 9/11, the last five years has been just an accident.

Or there's the second option: your political operatives leaked this nonsense for the same reason your political operatives put out that commercial - to scare the gullible.

Obviously the correct answer, Mr. Bush, is all of the above.

There are some of us who could forgive you for trying to run your candidates on the coattails of the Grim Reaper, for reducing your party's existence to "Death and Attacks Us."

It's cynical and barbaric.

But, after all, it may be merely the natural extension of the gutter politics to which you have subscribed since you sidled over from baseball, and the business world of other people's money.

But to forgive you for terrorizing us, we would have to believe you somehow competent in keeping others from doing so.

Yet, last week, construction workers repairing a subway line in New York City, were cleaning out an abandoned manhole on the edge of the World Trade Center site, when they stumbled on to the impossible: human remains from 9/11.

Bones and fragments.

Eighty of them.

Some as much as a foot long.

The victims had been lying, literally in the gutter, for five years and five weeks.

The families and friends of each of the 2,749 dead - who had been grimly told in May of 2002 that there were no more remains to be found - were struck anew as if the terrorism of that day had just happened again.

And over the weekend they've found still more remains.

And now this week will be spent looking in places that should have already been looked at a thousand times five years ago.

For all the victims in New York, Mr. Bush - the living and the dead - it's a touch of 9/11 all over again.

And the mayor of this city, who called off the search four-and-a-half years ago is a Republican.

The governor of this state with whom he conferred is a Republican.

The House of Representatives, Republican.

The Senate, Republican.

The President, Republican.

And yet you can actually claim that you and you alone can protect us from terrorism?

You can't even recover our dead from the battlefield - the battlefield in an American city - when we've given you five years and unlimited funds to do so!

While signing a Military Commissions Act so monstrous that it has been criticized by even the John Birch Society, you told us, Mr. Bush, "there is nothing we can do to bring back the men and women lost on September 11th, 2001. Yet we'll always honor their memory, and we will never forget the way they were taken from us."

Except, of course, for the ones who've been lying under a manhole cover for five years.

Setting aside the fact that your government has done nothing else for those five years but pat yourselves on the back about terror, while waging pointless war on the wrong enemy in Iraq, and waging war on the cherished freedoms in America;

Just on this subject of counter-terrorism, sir, yours is the least competent government, in time of crisis, in this country's history!

"These are the stakes," indeed, Mr. President.

You do not know what you are doing.

And the commercial - the one about which Zawahiri might say "hey, pretty good - we love your choice of font style"?

All that need further be said is to add three words to Shakespeare.

Mr. President, you, and that advertisement of terror, are full of sound and fury - signifying (and competent at) nothing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

As if you needed another reason to dislike Bush

He obviously doesn't care about terrorism unless it's in Iraq, because he's consistently under-funded the fight against violence in our schools. Read this article.

Happy 5 Months!

Simone turned 5 months old today, so time for an update.

She's 65cm long, and is 14 pounds in weight. She hasn't gained any weight in the past month but has grown a little longer - and last month's growht spurt was a doozy.

Her teeth are starting to come in and she's standing with help to keep her wobbly body upright.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What it should be like

We just purchased a Mac mini. Why? Well, we have Mary's old work computer (which strained to open up word documents), the Home PC from Intel (which usable, was getting a little flaky), and Mary's work laptop (kinda slow as well). Also, with the little videos we've been making of Simone, we're needing video editing software. What better to do that than a Mac?

Plus, a mini is so nice and compact. The only reason I'd ever want a computer bigger than the mini is that I'd want a screen and keyboard to go with (which means a laptop).

It arrived today. Apple does everything so pretty. Even the protective styrofoam padding is beautifully done - all the corners are rounded. The mini is as pretty as all the pictures, and was so incredibly easy to hook up. I just plugged the keyboard/mouse/monitor/network in and it was off and running. Simple. So simple. My old tower (the home PC) was just beeping at me the other day, showing nothing on the screen, just beeping uncontrollably (well, I could control it - I unplugged it).

I'm sure the mini will have its frustrating points, but it's starting off on the right foot.

And, so as not to be too wasteful. I pulled the hard drive out of the tower and plugged it in an enclosure I picked up from Fry's. With my luck doing this kind of thing in the past, I figured it'd take me hours. Seriously. I've got bad luck and I just knew installing the mini would have used it all up.

Nope, the luck of the Irish was with me tonight. A mere 10 minutes later I had the drive up and running and was copying stuff off my laptop to transfer to the Mac.

That's when things went nuts and my laptop decided the keyboard should stop working.
Time for bed.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Quick History of the Middle East

Neat animation showing the last 5000 years of the middle east.

Not asking for presents, but...

We're not asking for presents for Simone, people have been more than generous with gifts. But, Christmas is coming up, and then she'll hit her first birthday, then she'll be asking for the keys to the car...

Anyway, Mary and I are trying to keep Simone on a strict diet of natural toys, as in those made from wood, cotton, wool, metal (she may want a dump truck) .etc.. So, please no Barbies and that kind of thing. But, where might you find toys made of wholesome ingredients? Rosie Hippo is one such place. Just an idea.

Great Short

Awesome animation (if a little disturbing) found here.

Hat tip to Ze.

Not What I Want for Christmas

But it is tempting to get for others.

http://shop.kissochbajs.com/

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rusty Nail

Mmmm... I just had a couple of Rusty Nails. I tried to become a scotch drinker way back when I finished grad school. My best friend bought me a bottle of single malt, and some other friends got me a second bottle. Well, I just finished that second bottle (still working on the first) - so you can see how much of a scotch man I've become.

Even more telling, I can really only drink scotch when combined with Drambuie (ala Rusty Nail). My grandmother used to drink Drambuie - so I can thank her for the drink.

With pretty bottle finally empty, I finished up my first batch of hot sauce that I discussed earlier. I blended it up and put it through a food mill to get rid of all the skins. It turned a vibrant red, with a touch of orange. I had added rings of a hot Jalepeno pepper - but took those out before blending. I didn't want the sauce to look like puke.

I used an immersion blender to blend it up. I remember when I first found out about that kind of blender, my roomie (Portia) had one and loved it. I scoffed at the idea that it could do a proper job of blending. How wrong I was. We use it all the time now for making pureed soups (and hot sauces). Sorry Portia, I was wrong.

I'll let the hot sauce sit for a few days to see if it changes consistency or anything. It's got a lot of air still whipped in it from the blending. But, if all goes well, I'll soon have a new kind of gift for people - it'll be a blast to make.

This first bottle is all mine though.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Southpaw

It looks like Simone might be left-handed. She's reaching for her toys with her left hand most of the time. The right hand comes out, but it's not her first choice.

My dad will be very proud I'm sure (he's a leftie as well).

10 Quarts

For Christmas, my folks gave me (us) a Le Creuset dutch oven (it's really nice to cook with), and Mom said she saw a 10-quart pot they sold. I said I was interested, and for my birthday, Mom gave me that. (I'm a bit of a cooking gear hound.)

Now, I have to admit, I partially wanted it because it was a big pot, and why not have a really big pot? I figured we'd use it once in a while.

Well, this fall, we've used it at least once a week. We've made chicken stock, apple sauce, a couple of different soups. It's been an awesome pot and gets more use than the dutch oven.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's Simone Up To?

She's starting to laugh. She doesn't do it too often, just a couple times for me and Mary each. However, her soon-to-be-godmother, Patti, gets nothing but laughs. It's pretty funny.

Simone is also grabbing hair now - which gets Mary more than it gets me. The other day, Simone must have been channelling The Ultimate Warrior (a WWE wrestler), because she had Mary by the hair and then started kneeing Mary in the face. It was very comical. In fact, I think that's what Simone's special power was - making us laugh so that we couldn't do anything to stop her.

Other than that, she's sleeping a lot, talking a lot, and generally having a great time. We're very lucky to have such a wonderful baby.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Winner!

A friend at work threw a baby-shower for Simone (oh, and two other
kids born at work recently). We had it scheduled for the same weekend
as a conference for Mary (something about killing two birds).

The theme of the party was a pot-luck where you vote for your favorite
dish. I made Baklava, using a recipe handed down through the
generations, well, just one - from Mom to me. And Mom got it from a
Japanese woman. Go figure. Anyway, I knew it'd be a hit because it
always is. If I'm going to a pot luck, and I can bring a dessert,
that's what I make, no question.

Sure enough, I won. Boo-yah!

Oh, and Simone got a very nice blanket. It was very
soft, colorful, and Simone liked it very much. In fact, it was one of
the best we've ever been given. Oh, and it came from my boss's wife.
A very lovely blanket.

But seriously, we did use it this weekend quite a bit - she slept on
it one night, and has used it to keep warm in my parents (slightly
drafty) house.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Geek Humor

Governing by coding error.


if (person = terrorist) {
punish_severely();
} else {
exit(-1);
}



Yes, you have to be a geek to understand it. (click on the code for more info)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New Look

Blogger has a beta program for a fancier blog system. Of course, I like the general look of mine, so the colors and such are pretty much the same. I can now categorize my entries, and the history navigation is much easier. Pretty nifty. Let me know what you think.

America the Free ???

A guy in Denver approached the vice president and said he didn't like the VP's Iraq policies and walked away, he was then arrested and charged with assult.
Man Sues Secret Service Agent Over Arrest After Approaching Cheney and Denouncing War - New York Times

The DA says,
“The original indication was that he had pushed the vice president. Later it looked to be that he had just spoken to him.”
That's not even believable. Do you imagine for a second that someone who laid a hand on the VP would have lasted a second before the Secret Service would have taken him down? Not a chance.

The DA is in a hard spot, his cops acted on information the Secret Service gave him, and it turned out to be the wrong thing to do. I hope the truth comes out in this case - that the VP was trying to squelch someone who disagreed with his policies.

Of course, that won't happen.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sadly, I invested money 7 years ago

As this post points out, chances are I haven't broken even on those investments yet. Whiskey Bar: Breaking Even

And, for the ones I still have, all but one are under water.

Moral of the story - don't ask me for stock advice.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Very Good Point

This little article makes a very good point about how the way a carbon emissions permit system should be set up. If it's done wrong, it simply rewards the polluters.

OnTheCommons.org | Europe's New Enclosure

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not that I advocate killing...

But it sure makes things easier when the gunman kills himself after wrecking havoc: Gunman kills 3 girls, self at Pennsylvania school. Just taking this guy to court would have dragged things out.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Wee Bunz Cloth Diapers

Just a shout out to the lady from whom we buy our cloth diapers. She has a ton of information, a wide variety of products, and is probably selling herself too cheap.

Not that my web page gets much traffic, but it can't hurt to link to her: Wee Bunz Cloth Diapers

Friday, September 29, 2006

I'm Grateful For Our Co-op

Read this horror story about a food co-op: Won't Work for Food - CHOW.com

Our Co-op is a joy to experience.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Congress - working for us

This is our government, working for us. Where "us" equals big business.

Feature: Congress says "fuck you" to Net Neutrality with blatant pro-big-business push poll - Valleywag

Honey

We biked down to the farmer's market today with Simone - there won't be many more weekends with such great weather to allow that. Other than our usual stops at Dennison farm and Great Harvest (for samples), we stopped by a little stand selling honey.

They had samples for the tasting, which I thought was quaint because honey usually tastes about the same to me. Wrongo!

They had a few jars left of their Meadowfoam (pictured here) honey. It tasted like a super sweet vanilla syrup. We bought a jar and had some on top of fresh peaches and blueberries.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Canning Pear Sauce

When we picked apples a while back, we also picked a bag full of pears.

What do you do with a grocery bag full of pears? Make pear sauce.

What do you do with pear sauce? Make pear sorbet. mmm....

It's as easy as mixing pear puree and honey (8:1 ratio) and throwing it in the ice cream maker. It came out fluffy and light, tasting deliciously of pear.

But we had a bunch, even after taking some to a potluck and to Mary's book club. So I canned it. It was my first time canning, and I believe I was successful. At the least, I got a good seal on all 6 pint jars.

Now we can have a taste of autumn in winter or spring. Can't wait.

Lookit the size of that thing!

We've been eating flame raisins lately. Mostly because they're different and exciting - when compared to the regular raisins you get. Their most notable feature is their size. They're HUGE!

I never really noticed just how big they are until I was eating a handful of raisins and pecans. They're as large as a pecan half.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Slick idea

While I still like the concept of the MoGo mouse for simplistic design, these batteries recharge through a built-in USB port. Way slick - you don't have to tote around a charger for your batteries - just plug them in directly to your computer. If my current mouse batteries ever die (they're rechargable), I might give these a shot.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Simone Update

Simone is nearly 4 months old now. She's making bunches of new sounds. We're calling her our little pterodactyl because she squawks like one. Her sounds are getting longer - some of the pterodactyl war cries hare a good 15 seconds long and have a couple of different sounds now. Sadly, I think the "coo" sound has gone by the wayside never to appear again.

Lately she's been playing with her hands more, and she's actually sticking her fists out straight ahead. If she were walking - she'd have the Frankenstein arms down pat, but she's still lolly-gagging on her back it kind of looks like she's getting ready to box.

Last week, the two of us went on a nice walk before I started to work. After gazing at the leaves on the trees for a while, she fell asleep with her standard flip-top head position:


She's dancing around more than ever, and is now tracking us with her eyes. Just two days ago she looked me up and down (like that song about the bear with tennis shoes). Bath time is loads of fun (though I've yet to master the drying off and dressing stage afterwards).

Mary and I are a little shocked as how she's more self-entertaining and we can actually leave her in her play seat or on her mat for little bits of time. And she's starting to laugh now. We've had lots of smiles and giggles, but I've seen a couple of little laughs.

It's all a constant change, a good change. Eventually she'll laugh at one of my jokes.

Awesome book

I recently finished The Omnivore's Dilemma. I can't say enough good stuff about this book. I loved it.

I won't go over all the details of the book (I mentioned it in an earlier post here), but it does a great job of showing how our eating choices can affect the world we live in.

The big insights for me were: how incredibly over-dependent the typical American's diet is on corn (and thus oil), and new insight into how a "beyond-organic" farm could operate.

It really reinforced and confirmed the dietary choices Mary and I have made. Almost all of our grocery purchases come from the co-op, which focuses on organic and local. Our produce is almost entirely local and organic. Our beef is mostly grass-fed (which, it turns out, is actually healthier to eat (not to mention better for the cows/environment/etc.) due to a better balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids).

Anyway, I highly recommend the book as it not only explains the state of things, how things have gotten the way they are, but also gives you enough information to make changes if you so desire.

Garden Tour

We went on a tour of a few gardens in Corvallis this last week. The tour was cut a little short
because Simone decided we'd been busy too long (we had been out from 8 in the morning and stopped at 2:30 in the afternoon). But we did get to see a couple of neat gardens in people's yards.

Of all the ideas we got to see, I liked this tool shed the best. The open roof design was real nice.

Crappy car

I was walking through the parking lot at work the other day when I noticed this car.

I just had to take a picture.


I don't have a problem with people driving a beat-up car. Hell, I drove Xena (who was looking a little better than this even at her end) for years, and now I'm driving a 14-year old Protoge whose paint has been peeling for years.

My issue is that they're clubbing the car. This is at Intel - where every car around it is worth more.

Get over it buddy, nobody's taking your car.

Mary makes steak

As you probably know, I can be kind of picky about my food. Now, I'll eat all sorts of junk food, so it's not that I turn my nose up at pop cheese-its.

I have, however, come to appreciate a properly cooked steak (rare - and it's a really good cut, almost bloody). Mary isn't as picky - and likes her steaks more well-done than I, so I've been the one to do all the steak grilling in our home.

The other night, Mary came home with a couple of steaks. I was hanging out with Simone, so Mary decided to cook the steaks herself. We both inwardly thought, "hmmm.... Mary's cooking the steaks."

I must say, Mary cooks a mean steak. I wish I had another one in front of me right now.

Monday, September 11, 2006

True

I wondered the very same thing when I read that the Senate was going to outlaw butchering horses for meat. Seriously, isn't there anything more important they could be doing? I dunno, perhaps impeaching Bush?

Whiskey Bar: Horsing Around

9/11

I'll join the 9/11 meme.

First, the politics: I can't believe we are where we are right now. In a war in Iraq, with strained relationships with Iran and North Korea (axis of evil), and pretty much ignoring the other country we invaded (Afghanistan). The world used to side with us, and we've lost that political/moral clout, and are now just the big bully on the planet. sigh...

Five years ago today, Mary and I were on our honeymoon in Greece. I believe we were on the island of Naxos. I remember looking around this little shop - they made cheese that was stored in tall/skinny baskets (I bought two baskets - no cheese). They had a little 12" TV (ok, it was probably metric, 30cm) that was alternating showing two smoking buildings and 4 people gabbing away in Greek. I remember thinking, "wow, someone's pissed." Little did I know.

We later sat at a cafe and had drinks, watching CNN.

When talking with other people we ran into, people from other countries seemed sorry, but they had the undercurrent feeling, "it has been happening to the rest of us for years now, it's your turn."

We certainly haven't behaved any better since the attacks, and I'd (sadly) be willing to bet that there are more folks now than ever that would love to fly another plane into some of our buildings.

Cider

A week ago, Mary, Simone and I went over to a friend's house to help her pick her apples. They've got a lot going on, so we thought we'd come and harvest their apples for them. The tree in the front has small Liberty apples (and is a small tree). The apples were very tasty. Here are Mary and Simone after our harvest.

We picked all those apples in a mere 30 minutes. Picking apples is much easier than picking strawberries or raspberries.

This weekend we went over to another friend's place. They live on a farm and have several huge apple trees - and far too many apples to know what to do. So we went over after church and took some off their hands.

Their trees are real tall, and we were able to pick a bucket full just standing on the ground, or using a small step ladder. Frank asked if we wanted more, and when we said, "sure" he pulled out the fork lift.

That is a picture of the fork lift from my vantage point. I was standing about 15 feet in the air - on top of half a dozen pallets being held up by this fork lift. I could reach the tallest apples from there with ease. In no time I'd picked another 3 buckets full of King apples.

And to think I thought the 30 minutes was productive the weekend before. We picked 4 times as many apples in just over 45 minutes.

So, what do you do with that many apples? Well, we're gonna make some apple sauce, and we'll dry some apple slices. But, if you really want to concentrate apples, you make apple cider.

Back to the first friend's house - because they have a cider press (and all those apples we'd picked the week prior). Without hardly trying, we pressed 5 gallons of cider - with apples left over.

Here's a picture of one of the daughters of our friends, Nicole, and the cider press:

Made Some Hot Sauce

I made some hot sauce over the weekend. There's a booth at the farmer's market that sells peppers of all sorts, so I picked up some paprika peppers (for sweetness) and some cherry bombs (for spice - a little hotter than jalepenos) and whipped up a concoction.

The last time I made hot sauce I just threw the peppers into vinegar, but I got fancy this time. I roasted the sweet peppers, and briefly cooked the hot ones in vinegar (with a couple of garlic cloves). Now it's all stewing in the refrigerator. After a month or so, I'll try running the mixture through our food mill to get a nice texture.

Soon the thai peppers in the garden will be ready, and I'll make another batch. mmm.... hot sauce.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Go Bears!

Mary just gave me my anniversary gift, a new fitted baseball hat (my old one was pretty ratty), and a licence plate holder that says "Berkeley Alum."

The hat might make sense to you, but a licence plate holder? You know I don't really care that much about where I went to school... I'm proud to have gone to Cal, but what makes the licence plate holder even more sweet is that it replaces the one that had the dealership name on it (may they rot in heck).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Crikey

Crocodile hunter, Steve Hunter (website: Welcome to The Crocodile Hunter Website) died a few days ago while swimming with a sting ray. It startled and stabbed Steve in the heart with its barbed tail. Evidentally, Steve pulled the barb out of his chest and then died.

I imagine his last thought was, "Crikey!"

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dinner notes

Mmmmm.... Mary made a great beef and barley soup tonight, and we had our favorite red wine. Very tasty.

As I finished dinner, I started to get up and hit my toe on the foot of the table. Simone laughed, and I swear I saw her think, "It's funny because it's not me."

She certainly is mine. I've got to be more careful as to what I teach her.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Her first bike ride

Simone went on her first bike ride today. She didn't actually pedal or anything, we've got another two years before that can start. At this point, she gets to ride along for free.

The church threw Simone a baby shower a while back, and when asked for what Simone might like to have, we said a Burley bike trailer would be keen. The folks gave us a nice nest egg to help buy one.

I picked one up this week on my way home from work, we assembled it (stroller attachment as well), and this morning went on our maiden voyage.

The trailer has all sorts of fancy straps and snaps. It's way easy to use - the universal hitch was a cinch to get on my bike (Mary's is a little tougher b/c she's got an old fashioned "girl-style" bike, but it works). It's got a sun shade, is rain proof, and has plenty of room for groceries. We got the one big enough for two kids because ... we figure we'll probably have a second one - as overwhelming as having just one seems right now.

Simone is technically too young to be in a trailer. You're supposed to be able to sit upright before you go for a ride. But we can't wait that long - it'll be the middle of winter by that time. So, we put the car seat in, strapped it in place, and put her inside.


See - she's as happy as a clam at high tide. Her tongue is sticking out - her standard proboscis pose.
There you can see the whole get-up, baby in car seat in trailer.
I didn't get a picture of her with the hat down over her eyes. It kept sliding down while we were riding, so I don't think she got a very good view during the ride.

She seemed happy during the ride, all the bouncing and jostling didn't bother her too much. Simone has always liked being outdoors, and this is just a natural extension to that.

We figured her first trip should be to the farmer's market, and she slept in my sling the whole time we were there. Everyone commented on how cute she was. While she's getting bigger, I think she looked especially tiny tucked in a sling on my chest. I'm big enough to make most people seem small.

It was just the first of (hopefully) many trips in the bike trailer.

Found!

Mary, Simone and I were on a walk this evening - to feed the horses in the field down the street.

While approaching the field we both noticed a black cat standing in the dirt road that runs alongside the field. Mary wondered aloud, "Could it be Milo?"

For those of you not familiar with Milo, he's the cat that went missing over 3 years ago when Mary and I were in Australia. He loved him very much - putting up fliers and knocking on all the neighbors doors. After a while we just figured he was gone, hopefully to a loving home. Though I secretly figured he'd been caught by a coyote. You see, he was just too happy a cat to not come back home to us.

Anyway, as we got closer, the cat looked up and walked toward us, showing of a white patch under his neck. Milo had a white patch under his neck. He then flopped out, and we saw the white patch on his belly between his hind legs. Milo had a white patch on his belly there.

Long story short, we think it's him.

It's been three years, and he seems very healthy - a good thick fur coat. The horses spooked him a little bit, but he was pretty friendly other than that. He growled a couple of times while we pet him, but he kept coming back for more lovings.

But, he didn't seem to respond to his name (it has been three years), and we don't really know we'd integrate him back into the home. We now have two other cats, and there are three cats in the two houses next door, so we couldn't really pen him up in the back yard during the transition.

We've got high hopes, but still aren't sure what to do... at least we know he's alive and healthy.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Buckwheat Pillow

Mary made her very own zafu for doing yoga at home. I must admit, it's very well made - it looks just like something you'd get from any of the yoga supply shops. It's a round pillow, stuffed with buckwheat hulls. And why buy something for $49 when you can buy the materials for about $5 and sew it yourself.

I'd been wanting to try a buckwheat pillow for a while, but never wanted to actually buy one. They seem like they might be loud - the hulls rub together every time the pillow shifts, sounding kind of like a rain stick. Plus, I'm a cheapskate.

Well, I finally put two and two together and started using Mary's zafu. With a regular pillow (even the extra firm ones), I usually couldn't sleep on my side for very long, and often ended up on my back (which exacerbates my snoring). With the zafu, I stay on my side all night. I flip sides once or twice to help my arms which tend to fall asleep after a few hours of me lying on one shoulder.

All hail the zafu.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

WTF

Seriously, what is the deal with these:
Glade® PlugIns® - Scented Oil Light Show

How about we combine a hedge trimmer and a butter dish? Or perhaps a measuring spoon and a voltage meter?

Who comes up with these ideas? And, more to the point, who buys this stuff?

Stole the show

Last weekend we went to Art and Air Festival in Albany. The hot air balloons had already sailed, but all the art booths and music were in full swing. Some of the stuff was pretty neat, but nothing we couldn't live without.

We were chatting with one of the vendors, and she said that sales were way down, only 10% of normal (and she'd been there all 7 years it was running). We did notice how few people were there, considering the beautiful weather.

Simone decided she'd sleep through the entire event. I walked around with her asleep on my arm (like a lioness sleeping in a tree) for two hours. Everywhere we went people told us how cute she was and how we needed to take a picture. Of course we didn't have a camera.

There was an HP booth and the lady there took a picture and printed it for us (showing us the snazy new printer and camera - which took a fuzzy picture). I then remembered that we had cameras in our phones.

Here's the cutie:


A whole body shot for perspective:And here's the picture I took one handed (my favorite):

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is Our President Learning?

Someone takes a closer look at the recent "leaks" that Bush wants it known that he's an avid reader: American Prospect Online - Is Our President Learning?

Sounds like yet more mis-information being spread by our president.

Subtle


From: Opinions: Tom Toles Cartoons - (washingtonpost.com)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Math makes spywork easier...

Interesting short article about how simple formulas were used to replace faulty human intelligence: Gavyn Davies does the maths

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Moving the old-age bar...

I got a haircut today (first one in a year actually, but that's another story).

First of all, I feel out of place because everyone is talking about the little league world series - it was on the TV. I understand that the Beavers did win the college baseball championship, but still, why would any of us care about little kids playing baseball? Sure, they're the best in the world for their age-group, but come on, we don't watch world-champion basketball for 12-year olds, or football.

So, these old-timers are talking about that and watching it on TV. The show/game ended, and on came the X-games bmx vertical event (which I was interested in). They immediately turned the TV off. eh?

So, I'm feeling out of touch already.

The guy next to me is getting his hair cut (surprise, surprise), and the barber asks him, "do you want me to trim the eyebrows?"

That's the new bar for being old , when the barber asks if my eyebrows need trimming.

Of course, I guess it'd be worse if they just trimmed them without asking.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Slime Molds

I'd read about slime molds before, and the first part of this article gives a good description of how they sometimes behave like individual amoebea, but in times of scarcity, they group together and behave as a more complex ogranism that generates "spoors". Neat stuff.

The article goes on further to discuss details about the complexities in these complex organisms which you may or may not find interesting (I did), but the first part is definitely worth reading.

Us and Them Among the Slime Molds

Friday, August 18, 2006

Which do you like better?

Interesting site - asks you to choose between photos.
After choosing some, you click on the brain and it tells
you something about yourself.

So far it's gotten 7/8 statements correct.

photos you likebetter: you are what you like

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The environmental costs of green energy: Biofuels | The Green Geek

The Green Geek has a good article on The environmental costs of green energy: Biofuels. I thought the most telling portion was the following:
It’s known that photosynthesis has an efficiency of around 16 percent. Even if the entire mass of the plant was converted to usable energy, this is already less efficient than using the sunlight directly via photovoltaic panels or concentrated solar power systems, and that’s not even factoring in energy losses during processing and distribution, or thermal and mechanical losses in a vehicle.
In part, this shows how amazing the energy concentration is in our fossil fuels, and how we really need to think of something more than replacing our oil/coal consumption with a "green" substitute.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Treadmill Bike

Maybe I'll ask for one for my birthday: Treadmill Bike

Monday, August 14, 2006

Crank

I've only seen the preview for the movie Crank, and it looks good. In fact, I think the plot is about as good and simple as you can get in a movie. It is analogous to the TV show "Hot or Not."

In "Hot or Not" people walked on the stage and were labelled either "hot" or "not." Simple. You knew what you were getting just from the title of the show. Production costs (in TV that's big) were minimal. And viewers knew they could watch without any pretense of having to "enjoy the writing."

In Crank, the main character is poisoned, and if he lets his adrenaline flow drop, he will die. So, he gets to pack as much action/explosions/fighting into a 90 minute movie as possible. And you know that going in. The writing doesn't matter, you're going for pure action. I'd bet that any character development you notice in the will detract from your experience.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cucumbers ripen?

I harvested a cucumber out of our garden. It looked nice and big and pretty.

Tonight I cut it open to mix with some of dill from our herb garden to make the cucumber salad mom used to make for us. Turns out, the cucumber wasn't quite ripe. The seed core is a bit small, and the flesh of the cucumber is a bit woody and bitter. Plus, the dill doesn't seem to be quite the right flavor either (perhaps it is too young as well - though the seeds are very tasty).

It'll be an interesting salad. Perhaps it'll just flavor the compost pile.

Hot Sauce

Last summer our garden had a Thai pepper plant. It was real cute, and had a bunch of little peppers. The peppers were way too hot to eat (we're not heat freaks). I used probably two of them in dishes, and that was plenty.

Toward the end of summer, the peppers all ripened and looked as though they were going to go spicy heaven, so I harvested them (15 or so) and tried to think of what to do. What do you do with peppers too spicy for normal eating?

I could have tried to dry them, but I was afraid of them just rotting - and the colors probably wouldn't stay. Plus, I already had a bunch of red pepper flakes.

So I chopped them up and put them in a small jar with vinegar - hot sauce. I put the jar in the fridge and promptly forgot about it. Some months later I checked the jar and it looked like the real thing. The vinegar was a nice bright red, and the rings of peppers floated in that beautiful liquid. It even tastes pretty good - kind of like a cross between Cholula and Tabasco.

I'm waiting for some hot peppers to show up at the farmers market (dunno if ours will show up, we've not given much love to the garden). I think it'll be fun to make one or two hot sauces. I'll probably blend one of them, and try roasting some of the peppers in one. I'll probably also add a little salt and sugar, and maybe some tomato, to give the sauces a little depth.

My first sauce aged rather well, and I'm almost done with it (I did add some more vinegar to stretch the batch a little further).

The Fastest Way To Make Simone Cry

No, I'm not hurting her - how sick are you for thinking that?

When I have one of my super-sneezes (which is most all of them), I get the whole body into it and approach fetal position at the apex of the sneeze.

Evidentally, this sound cuts straight to the core of Simone and she immediately begins crying at level 8 (of 10 - 10 is when she loses her voice, luckily that's been rare).

So sad, the U.S.ranks at the wrong end of so many measures of a civilized nation

Academics Poor US Test Results
Understanding of evolution Well, at least we beat Turkey
Infant mortality rate: (US is 40th (Cesarean rates are 2-3X that of other developed countries)
Capital punishment: US is 3rd behind China and Iran
Child poverty rates: U.S. leads industrialized nations with appallingly high rates

and the U.S.'s human rights are going down the drain with our "enemy combatants" as well as our civil rights (domestic spying, wiretapping)

The United States, a country with such good ideals, gone so wrong.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Airplane Scare

Bruce Schneier points out the obvious futility of the current airport security: Prison Shivs

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blankets

Thank you to everyone who has given us a blanket, it's beautiful, Simone loves it.

However, we do not need any more baby blankets. We have over a dozen already, and 3 more hand-crafted ones are coming our way. She simply cannot use that many at one time.

I'm not even talking about the little blankets you wrap her in to sleep or just keep warm - we've got 7 or 8 of those. Those get used every day for hours on end, and get puked on and soak up sweat (or, gasp.... occasionally some pee).

So, please, no more blankets. We just can't cycle through them fast enough, and have run out of shelf space for them.

(we did consider making a mega-quilt (meta-quilt?), but decided it'd be a little awkward to use)

Litter

Because I know you care about your cats.

Cat litter was always gross to me growing up. But, now that I no longer have parents who will clean up litter for me, I've got to take care of it myself.

We do have two cats, and since we want the best for them, we've tried out a number of different cat litters.

There's the traditional clay litter that doesn't clump. While inexpensive, it's awful wasteful because you have to toss out a bunch every couple of days. That never appealed to either of us.

Then there's the clumping clay litter. Evidentially, there was some controversy over the "dangers" of clumping clay, which appear to have stemmed from one woman's experience. But nobody else seems to have had cats die (or even have problems) because they were eating the litter. Our cats have never eaten litter - dogs may be that dumb, but cats? Anyway, the dust from clay may be an issue, or it may not - but in general, the clumping clay litters have odd chemicals added to them, and we'd rather not have that. Oh, and there's the possibility of the clay gumming up your sewer line - not what I'd want to have to get fixed.

We tried the wheat-based clumping cat litter. This stuff certainly clumps, and it clumps hard. If you have it deep enough (3" or so), the urine builds little solid cylinders of clumped litter. If it isn't deep enough, then the urine spreads out and cements itself to the bottom of your litter box (not fun at all). I found the clumps to be way too hard - they took 10-15 minutes to dissolve in water. So, while they wouldn't make any permanent clogs in the sewer, you couldn't always immediately flush down the clumps.

We tried the paper-based litter, which doesn't clump. This litter is different than the rest in that it's composed of a pea-sized balls of recycled paper. The urine soaks into the paper balls, and you have to scoop out the wet balls. The feces seemed to just sit there - dried out. While it was a little bit of a pain to scoop out the wet balls (if you accidentally stirred the litter - the wet balls would be everywhere), the litter behaved well enough. It flushed down super easy, never clogging the toilet (and ours has clogged when I've just peed in it). The biggest drawback was that it tracked. I have no idea how the cats tracked pea-sized balls around the house, but there were some, and they were very painful to step on.

The last type of litter we tried was the corn-based, modestly named World's Best Cat Litter. I have no idea if it is truly the world's best, but it clumps nicely and seems to control the odor well. Like the other non-clay litters, it is flushable and biodegradable. Like the others, it has very little dust, and is even safe to eat (not recommended).

They all have slight smells - not bad, just different. And they all worked. The corn just seems to have the best of all the options, with the fewest drawbacks. And now that we're letting the cats outside, we don't go through it so fast. It is not cheap.

What we really need is a self-cleaning litter box. Perhaps Simone will get one for her first birthday....

Videos

Well, Mary and I bought the last essential item for any new parents.

No, not the stroller (don't have one yet - we're hippies and like our slings, thank you very much).

No, not the binky - we're still debating about that, and anyway, you've got to wait for a few months so as not to cause nipple confusion.

No, not Simone's very own TV.

We got a video camera.

Turns out, there are too many varieties from which to choose, and we were pretty overwhelmed by the on-line information. So we just went out and bought one. It's gotten reasonable reviews, though people didn't like the video quality (looks great to me). What's nice about it: size (tiny), saves data to a hard drive (30Gb -> 7.5 hours of widescreen DVD quality video), and is so ridiculously easy to use.

The next step is editing the video - which means we'll probably get a Mac. I'm thinking the mini. It's just so cute and simple - that's all we need. And Mac is supposed to be the bomb for editing video and the such. Unfortunately, our cam corder records to mpeg2 format, which isn't editable by iMovie (Mac's movie editor). So, we'll have to convert. But, I don't think the video recorders that record to mini-dvds (one of the other options) do any different - I've got to check it out.

So, we're beginning our initial videos. Of course, she doesn't do a whole lot right now, so it'll be a while before we actually create our first DVD.

And we have to give big thanks to both sets of grandparents - this video recorder was a very nice gift from all of them.

Just don't go looking for us on AFV. I'm not going to be one of those guys who gets hit in the balls by their kid on video.

Yet more proof that AOL users are clueless

I took a quick break to say, "hi" to Simone today. The TV was on (Mary watched Oprah - but she wasn't in the room) - and I switched to find "Who wants to be a millionaire?" on. Some clueless guy (who didn't know that "Van Gogh" was the last name to a famous painter named "Vincent" when given 4 last names) was asking the audience for help on the question:

"What generally characterizes the condition babies often have called 'colic'?"

A. coughing B. farting C. exploding D. crying

Ok, so I made B and C up, I don't remember what they were, but they were just odd. Ignore the fact that the guy didn't know the answer was D (I knew that way before I even thought of having kids). He asks the audience and 91% say 'D'. yay. Then the hostess switches over to the AOL response (same thing as asking the audience, but AOL folks answer) and it was split, 38% A and 38% D (the rest to B/C).

Maybe only 8 people were responding from the AOL site, or ... I dunno.

Guess I don't want AOL people voting either.

A good reason for the US to not be like Australia

My brother-in-law is in town (from Australia) for a couple weeks. We were chatting last night about the state of the world and other such insightful topics. He reminded me that in Australia you have to vote, or you're fined. I kind of admire that - because I think it's a shame when people don't vote. Voting is kind of like a jury summons - it's a part of your responsibilities as a citizen of this country.

However, I am glad that we don't force people to vote in the U.S. because half the country is just too ignorant. Half of U.S. Still Believes Iraq Had WMD.

I don't have a problem with people having different moral values than I do, I'm certainly no authority on the subject. But when people are just too ignorant (or, as I usually say, "stupid") that they do not have basic facts straight, I damn well don't want them voting.

Granted, it's not entirely their fault. The reason folks believe Iraq had WMD isn't just accidental, because the number is up from 36% a year earlier. The executive branch is deliberately leaking misleading information and skewing their answers to straight forward questions.

As John Steward said (to people on Crossfire, but I think it applies to Bush and co. as well), "Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.".

Friday, August 04, 2006

Busiest Weekend Ever

August 12&13 2006

What's going on that weekend?
  1. Sam's pig roast
  2. Mary's brother is in town (from Australia)
  3. Mary's mom's family reunion
  4. national conference for naturopathic medicine
  5. Mary's 20 year high school class reunion
  6. our birthing class reunion
  7. Cornell's alum summer picnic
  8. neighbor's open house
And those are just the things I can think of off the top of my head.

We won't be doing all of that.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

There's no UNDO button

That should be life's first lesson from now on.

I'm very accustomed to being able to undo things at work - computers are good like that.

However, when I'm placating Simone and get her to a happy place, I sometimes change - switch arms, put her over a shoulder, stop/start walking, whatever. And that sets her off again. I try to quickly "undo" what I just did, but she doesn't have an "undo" button.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mid-Rank Nerd

I am nerdier than 71% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Finally, an article that gives the low-down on biodiesel

It's at Scientific American: Fuel Change

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Article on why intuition often gets science wrong

Interesting article at Scientific American, though it starts out well, it ends with a jab at prayer and healing which I thought was odd.

Folk Science -- Why our intuitions about how the world works are often wrong

Monday, July 24, 2006

First Bath for Daddy

This weekend was my first bath with Simone. Mary's given her a few baths, but this time I got to be the one in the water with her. It was probably her most peaceful bath so far. But I'm sure that had more to do with her age than anything I did.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hot stuff

It's gonna be hot this weekend. Heck, it was hot yesterday when I worked on the fence.

Simone doesn't do well in the heat, she ... melts down. heh

Anyway, we headed to the beach where it's nice and cool. We took the cats as well - they did very well, and after coating the interior of the car with a fine layer of cat fur, settled down and actually seemed to enjoy the car ride.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fencing

So, the computers at work decided to take a vacation day, which means I'm gonna work on the fence. Woo-hoo! Put on some sunscreen, grab a lemonade (Lynchburg????), and get to work!

This is what it looks like (the black plastic is covering the dirt we dug up for the patio project last summer, we'll take care of it after the fence is done):