Sunday, September 30, 2007


I like our house, it's got a number of fun, interesting features.

However, the guy (gal) who designed it showed remarkable lack of design skills in a couple of areas. Today (because it is raining), I feel like ranting about the roof and the gutter (drainage) system.

First, the roof lines are fun and visually interesting from the street. Whee.

However, on one side of the porch, the major beam that runs across the porch juts out past the roof line. What does this mean? Horizontal wood (painted) is exposed to rain. Not only that, but an entire roof drains onto this piece of wood. They (as an afterthought) added a piece of flashing over the top, but only made the flashing extend to cover two-thirds of the exposed wood. Eh? The 15 cents of aluminum saved was not worth it. I repainted the wood with several coats this summer, but failed to put up a bigger piece of flashing (it will go up before the winter has really begun).

The downspouts all around the house are "aimed" at the pipes that drain to the sewer. yes, they "aim" in the general direction, but they don't really drain directly into the pipes. Most are rectangular downspouts that end 1/4 inch above the beginning of the circular drainage pipes. And, no, they don't line up exactly. A couple of the downspouts are crimped at the bottom to "ensure" the water all goes into the pipe. While that makes sure more of the water gets in the pipe, it creates a wonderful blockage for any debris that falls down the downspout.

The best feature is a drainage area behind the garage. See, the two north/south peaks in the front of the house drain to a flat area above the front porch, which is serviced by two downspouts. The one in front of the garage seems to be OK, as it's surrounded by a sea of aluminum flashing with no seams (thank god). So debris in that area has plenty of space to collect and not cause any major problems. However, the one behind the garage is just a mess. First, it all collects to a single channel that runs east/west, continuing to collect rain from a third peak above the master bedroom. So an inordinate amount of rain collects in this tiny location. The flashing is pretty high along the vertical surface, so all is not bad. However, it drains to one point where it dumps into a square section of gutter, perhaps 4 inches square.

Yes, about one-tenth of the roof drains into a 4"x4" section of gutter. That's roughly 4000 gallons of water draining into 16 square inches of space. (1/10 * 1600 square feet * 40" of rain per year)

Of course a couple of leaves and a few pine needles are all that's needed to clog up that little space. Why? Well, if water builds up just before it reaches the gutter, water will flow along the south-facing exterior wall and drain down the wall, flowing over the garage window, and continuing down to the ground.

Oh, but it gets better. Presume, for a second, that there aren't any blockages at the gutter. The downspout immediately bends 45 degrees, flows 5 feet, and then makes a 90 degree bend into a jury-rigged connection with another downspout. Yes, they crimped the end of the 90 degree bend and shoved it into a hole in the other downspout, and liberally applied caulk. This little junction commonly fills up with gunk (usually sediment from the shingles) and the rain backs up to the 45 degree bend where it pours out, and, you guessed it, down the side of the house, over the window, and to the ground.

I have added wire mesh to all of the downspout/gutter connections, so this helps prevent debris from entering (clogging) the downspouts, and it also allows water to drain longer. But the fundamental design of the area behind the garage just blows. The water pouring over the window is certainly what has caused water damage inside the window (in the garage), and I'm sure the design has let water come into the garage and cause the mildew bloom we had in the garage.

Hopefully the occasional cleaning of the gutter and the wire mesh will keep us from having any problems. But I'm pretty sure I'm going to redo the downspout in that corner and just have it drain under ground into a French drain. I'm still not sure how I'll manage ensuring all 4000 gallons get into the downspout, but something will come up.

It just means that when it rains every fall I watch the water pour over the window and get to go out in the wet to clean the gutter.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

MSNBC:Right :: Democrats: ???

Remember the analogy section from the SAT?

Well, on my jog the other day I put together an analogy I hadn't heard anywhere else (I know, possibly an original idea, from me).

You may or may not know the (his)tory behind Phil Donahue's show on MSNBC (read some about it here or in this book. The short story is that MSNBC wanted a show to compete against Fox New's O'Reilly Factor, and started off with the liberal-leaning Phil Donahue. However, over time, the executives at MSNBC forced the show to become more "balanced" - so much so that it had 2 or 3 conservatives for every liberal on the show (Phil Donahue (the host) counted as a liberal). The ratings plummeted (to a level still above the rest of the shows on MSNBC), and they canceled the show. It turns out, the executives thought Donahue would be "a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war".

So, you have a major news network starting off trying to present an alternative to the conservative Fox News, but the suits panic and force the shows to get in line with the administration. Heaven forbid any media actually question the administration.

Now, look at the Democrats. They've been saying, "out of Iraq," "Republicans have a culture of corruption," and that Bush has overstepped his authority. Sure, that sounds great, but what happens when it actually comes time to doing anything?

They vote for continued funding, they refuse to impeach bush or do much of anything to shed light on the corruption surrounding this administration and the war.

They're just like MSNBC, gutless.

Oh, and the solution to the analogy is: Executive Branch

Note: Democrats have more than enough votes to cut funding for the war, they simply don't want to (just need 41 to filibuster any funding bills).

Note: I'm not certain an immediate pull out is wise, but we should certainly be starting the withdrawal now (and, no the proposed draw down to pre-surge levels doesn't count b/c 1) that's the definition of "surge", and 2) it's known that our military simply lacks the bodies to maintain anything about 130k troops in Iraq.


So the strike is over, I've no idea what the details of the new agreement are, but it got me thinking.

Sure, GM is now spending over $5B (yup, Billion) each year on health care for it's workers (current and retired). Yes, that's a lot of cash.

Still, they were the most profitable company in the U.S. off and on for the past 45 years!!!! Hell, they made $1.4 BILLION in 1963 (after making just under a billion the previous 3 years).

And it's not as though they haven't planned for their employees' retirement, they've got $90B in their pension fund. But, it sounds as though they do not have a health care fund, but just have a liability. (To "fund" the UAW health care fund, they're considering handing over $30B).

What happens to poor folks (or even average folks) who are delinquent on their auto/house/boat payments? We get our stuff repossessed. Well, GM should have been paying better attention to their financial state and saved for the retirement costs like they did their pension.

I have no sympathy for GM. They promised to pay the bills, they've made a TON of money over the years, there's no excuse for not living up to their obligations.

iBike WW38

Simone and I biked on the damp streets (no rain for us, luckily), picking up some cover crop for the garden, and checking out all the new houses up behind the Timberhill area. We looked at one for $924,000 on 2 acres. Kind of an ugly exterior, but a beautiful interior.

Stats: 45 min of riding

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who Should I Vote For?

WQAD came up with a survey you can answer and it compares your answers
with the candidates positions.

Select a Candidate 2008

My top three (in order) are Kucinich, Clinton, Obama (Clinton and Obama are tied).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Peak Oil Is Here

A write up on The Oil Drum: ...To Grandmother's House We Go: Peak Oil Is Here. Not a doomsday story (well, not until the last three paragraphs) but a well written analysis of what has just happened and what it will start to mean.

Monday, September 24, 2007


From: One Gigabyte: Then and Now

Well Said

Scott Adams has a great post discussing the visit of the Iranian president to the U.S.

And, of course, a number of people read his post and completely missed the point. So he clarified with a follow-up. The best quote in the follow-up was:
You can only fool me five or six dozen times before I start getting suspicious.

Evidentially, the number of times his readers can be fooled is higher than six dozen.

Runner-Up for Overheard in New York

Persistence pays off, I'm a runner-up in the bi-weekly contest on Overheard in New York:

Overheard in New York | Plus, She's Deaf. And German.

I was excited to think I was the first runner-up, but then I noticed they are posted in alphabetical order.

Note: while this quote/headline is PG-13, some are not, so don't go browsing if you're easily offended.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Sock Sponge

I pulled a new sponge out of its wrapper and started using it this week. The first thing I noticed was that it was big. But, unlike some of the other sponges we've used, it wasn't super-stiff, so the size wasn't a drawback. It's also kinda fuzzy, like an animal (as Mary noted).

I must admit, I kind of like using a sponge that reminds me of a hedgehog.

PeeChee and Gilmore

Mary and I are watching Gilmore Girls (yeah, I know, chick show, but the writing is awesome - it's the West Wing of the genre (whatever genre that is)). Anyway, in the first season's finale, Rory is carrying her books around school and she has a Pee-Chee, which I think is totally odd. The show is set in Connecticut, and as far as I know, they were only ever popular (and available) on the west coast.

See, in 1990, I left the west coast to go to school in upstate New York, and I spent probably half an hour combing the campus store looking for a Pee-Chee folder. When I asked the store clerks, they stared at me blankly and responded, "Peachy?"

I've also confirmed with my friend Miles who did a similar thing (grew up in LA, went to school in Boston), and he had the same experience.

So I thought it odd that Rory would have one. However, the show tries to be kitschy, so it kind of fits (as she's the only one in her school with one that I noticed).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gmail -> 1-2-3?

Joel (the author of probably the world's most popular software blog) thinks Gmail might go the way of Lotus 1-2-3:
Strategy Letter VI - Joel on Software

Sunday, September 16, 2007

iBike WW36 & WW37

Another double weekend, woo-hoo!

Saturday was the standard ride to the market, just Simone and me this time. We got some fruit for Simone, russian fingerling potatos for Mary, and a watermelon for me. Oh, and the best corn on the cob we've had all year, yum!

Today the three of us went on the Passport to Healthy Garden tour of gardens in Corvallis. We got to 4 houses last year (all of which were pretty slick), and this year we improved to 7 gardens (one wasn't a house). The first was probably the best, it was older and established - they had a large lot with a big ornamental area and a beautiful food garden. And, as a bonus, it was right next to a friend of Mary's - so we poked our heads in and I finally got to see the straw-bale house they've been building (it's very pretty).

The rest of the tour was so-so. The gardens were impressive - lots of food packed into small, residential lots, it's just that they were pretty young (most were 2 years old), and mostly focused on just food (and not ornamental plants). There's a limit to how many times I can gaze at other folk's bounties w/out thinking, "gee, if we just put a little more time into ours..." so it ends up being a little bit of a guilt trip (I'm that self-absorbed).

Anyway, the last garden we hit was a research project at OSU on green roofs and how they respond to different irrigation (rainfall levels). It's pretty interesting, the plants are just getting settled, the research doesn't really start until this winter.

I'd have to see a lot more information on a green roof, but it does sound interesting. Some even go as far as to have goats on their roofs.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards"

I like this guy's art/comics. gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards": selling more stormhoek

What I find interesting is that he publishes his stuff with a Creative Commons license, meaning anyone can use it for non-commercial purposes.

I think this one is pretty funny:


Turns out Mary's favorite word from medical school is: Borborygmus

It only took her 8 years to spill the beans.

Friday, September 14, 2007


A couple of months ago we had a mud party to make adobe bricks for a fireplace. Well, the fireplace is finally going up. Just thought you'd like a picture of what we have so far:

Kiko is building it for us, and he's got lots of good ideas. You can see the bench on the right side, along with some light weight bricks resting on top of the bench. The light weight bricks (just sawdust and clay) are for the tall chimney.

Initially, the actual fire pit looked too small. But after a couple of little test fires, we found it throws off a lot of heat. Plus, it's of the Rumford design, which is good at pulling the smoke up the chimney, and is very efficient (for a fireplace).

It's tough to tell from the photo, but the chimney in this photo stops about 6 feet off the ground (right at the top of the photo). While it looks cute, the smoke curls back down into the sitting area when the wind blows north. So we're going higher, about 5 feet higher. I floated the idea to Kiko to make a spiral design up the chimney, which I think intrigued him (he talked about one guy he knew that made columns spiral by slightly offsetting the square bricks).

We're very excited to see how it turns out. And just in time for cool weather!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Troop Drawdown

General Petraeus just gave his report to Congress and suggested we begin removing troops to the pre-surge level. President Bush is expected to agree to that tonight.

I wish someone would point out the obvious irony here. A quote from Bush in 2006:
Remarks by the President at the 2006 President's Dinner: "An early withdrawal would embolden al Qaeda and bin Laden. An early withdrawal, before we completed the missions, would say to the United States military, your sacrifices have gone to vain. There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run the Congress and occupy the White House."
How is the current withdrawal proposal any different than what Bush railed against in the past?

Oh, right, it's because Bush is proposing it, so therefore it is good.

It's obvious our troops kick @ss, but as Petraeus knows they're not suitable for what they're doing in Iraq (because he wrote it in his PhD dissertation:
“…committing U.S. units to counterinsurgencies appears to be
a very problematic proposition, difficult to conclude before domestic
support erodes and costly enough to threaten the well-being of all America’
s military forces (and hence the country’s national security), not just
those involved in the actual counterinsurgency.”


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Review: Things That Go

(image taken from Amazon)

I read Things That Go tonight for the first time. Someone had given us a 3-pack of the Happy Baby books (we like the Happy Baby Animals book).

The construction of the book is great - nice padded covers, solid paperboard pages, bright colors, neat pictures, etc.

However, I have an issue with some of the content, as it could easily confuse a young child.

First off, a number of the cars are British - and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, whereas other vehicles are American and the steering wheel is on the left side. That's pretty minor, but it's just the beginning.

There are two sections that feature trains (yay! trains). However, both prominently feature the sound, "choo, choo!" (one being in a 'what sound does this make' section). None of the trains pictured are steam engines (they're either electric or diesel). I don't know where these folks get off trying to teach my daughter that electric/diesel trains sound like steam engines. This isn't the 1920's.

The ambulance pictured has the word "police" prominently displayed, which is rather confusing, especially considering the fact the car next to it is labeled as "police car." Are they not both police cars?

The "Kids on the move" page is probably the most egregiously misleading section. All of the kids are obviously at rest. The skateboard guy's picture is blurred to make it look like he's moving, but the wheels are not blurred (it's standing still). The ice-skating girl isn't standing on ice. The snowboarding person looks like they are overdressed and is in a studio. And the cute little girl on the bike... her kickstand is down and is what is holding her up. The only positive note on this page is that everyone is wearing the appropriate safety gear (forgiving the ice skater not having the blade protectors on her skates).

The "Truck puzzle" page has a subtle right-handed bias. You're supposed to find the features in the pictures on one page in the bigger picture on the facing page. The three pictures that contain items that can be found on either the right or left side of the truck are all on the right side of the truck (from the truck's vantage). I worry about the psychological damage to left-handed children (which Simone might be).

The biking girl on the "How do I sound" page appears to actually be biking (or at least balancing) has am improperly set-up bike - her seat is way too low.

The last pages are a "Matching pairs" puzzle where you match the professional worker (builder, pilot, firefighter, astronaut) with the appropriate vehicle. The politically-correct terms are used, but all the professionals are male. Granted, the fields chosen are male-dominated, but they could have used a woman in one of the positions. Note: you cannot see the astronaut's face, but the picture is taken from the classic moon picture, and only men landed on the moon). Additionally, the astronaut is paired with a "space shuttle." There are several things wrong with this, first of all, all moon landings happened way before the space shuttle was even conceived. Secondly, the space shuttle pictured is an obvious model - it has X33 prominently displayed on the side and the model pictured is not even of the X33 design. Compounding the confusion is the fact that the X33 is an unmanned ship. The other space shuttle pictures were real, it is very disappointing the authors skimped on the last picture of the last page.

That being said, I did think the giant excavator and dump truck pictures on the "Construction site" pages were pretty cool. They're both of the really heavy duty variety. The dump truck is of the variety used in (icky) pit coal mines, and the excavator is just huge .

Overall, I found there to be way too many damaging elements to the book. I will continue to read the "animals" book, but this one may have to be shelved until Simone is more mature, perhaps 3 or 4 years old.

Seriously, Did We Need To See This?

From Yahoo! News Photo

Saturday, September 08, 2007

President Condemns Terrorist Attack in Najaf

Surprise, surprise, yet more hypocrisy from W: President Condemns Terrorist Attack in Najaf. That's just one of many statements W has made about terrorists targeting innocent civilians.

Yes, it's bad. Shame on them.

What's worse, though, is pretending that you're not having an effect on civilian deaths. You see, the US invasion has caused 600,000 deaths (range of 426000 to 790000 with a 95% confidence interval). And we continue to use air strikes, knowing full well that they are likely (guaranteed?) to cause even more civilian deaths (a sniper uses a rifle, not a 2 ton bomb folks). But W and the military and all the supporters of the war brush the civilian deaths under the rug because the military "is targeting known terrorist locations."

Gee, don't mind us folks, we're gonna wipe out your family because we think there's a bad guy in there. No, no, we're the good guys, we didn't mean to kill civilians. again. and again. You can't be mad at us.

And to think, people seriously can't figure out why large percentages of Muslims around the world hate the United States.

No disrespect to our troops, it's their leaders I'm angry with, obviously the head honcho most of all.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pot, Kettle, meet W

It's not funny, it's sad. It's depressing. It's more than depressing, and I'm sure that W feels he's been wronged by Iran yet again: ZNet | Activism | Blowback, Detainee-style

Bush and company are outraged that Iran would hold some people, essentially calling them enemies of the state.

Oh, but it gets better, they're of course being held in a jail known to be where folks are tortured.

It boggles the mind that W has the gall to be outraged/indignant over this.

pot meet kettle, kettle ...

NPR : Statistics the Weapon of Choice in Surge Debate

Driving to work yesterday I heard this piece (full text) NPR : Statistics the Weapon of Choice in Surge Debate

The executive summary is that both sides are using various statistics to either to show progress in Iraq or that there isn't progress. It ends with the line:

"So is the surge working? The short answer is that no one can know for certain because statistics only tell a small part of the story."

I found that to be a very odd concluding statement. Every example given in the story followed the same pattern: [the White Hhouse/Pentagon says X, but if you look at things it's really !X] (where X is some measure of success). Every example in the story (success in Anbar, success in Baghdad, total attacks, troop casualties, etc.) was a narrow statistic by the White House/Pentagon and a wider, more contextually revealing statistic showing the opposite. How could the conclusion of the story be essentially, "gee, I dunno which side is right."

Um... the story pretty much says the White House/Pentagon are spinning things their way, and looking deeper reveals they're hiding things from you. Just say so.

Big Stories You Missed

Worth a read: Censored! The top 10 big stories the US news media missed in the past year.

Also, the 15 missed-story runners up.

They're things you probably missed while getting ample coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death, drivel about Britney Spears, John Edwards' haircut,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yay Simone

Simone continues to grow like a weed. She's walking around with help, even getting good enough to walk with only one hand helping her. Her favorite word seems to be "beep". She's very excited about seeing babies in books/magazines and photos.

She loves to pull things out of bags and put toys into cups and bowls. She gets super excited when you chase her, or when she can chase you. She's playing the piano - even reaches up while standing on the ground to play some notes. She plays the marimba while standing - she knows which ends of the mallets to use, and she can pound on the drum. I'm still trying to get her to play the harmonica - that'll probably take a while.

She loves making faces and sticking her tongue out. When you curl your tongue into a tube she giggles hysterically. She still likes the water, and still enjoys rides in the Burley.

Rice cakes are a new thing for her, and she thinks they're the neatest thing since peaches and nectarines. Plain rice is also a favorite - makes going out for Chinese and Japanese food a cinch.

She's much more gentle with books and magazines, used to be she'd rip the cover off immediately. Now she opens the board books and looks at each page, and she likes looking through the magazines for pictures of babies.

We can spend lots of time swinging in the swings. We just got one of those bucket seats to hang up around home. At Gearhart, we spent a lot of time in a super recliner deluxe swing that was like a barcalounger hung from the sky.

Each day is better than the last.

Old People's Memories or Actual Numbers

Little rant here.

The news has had several stories about how hot or how dry the summer has been. And I'm sure it has.

But why talk to old-timers who say, "This is the hottest/driest it's been as long as I can remember."

Gee... that's real useful to me. I'm sure that they could tell us how tough it was walking to school, uphill both ways, through snow, etc.

Just find me the facts, was it or was it not the hottest/driest summer in the past 70 years?

Voting and Religion poll

Interesting spin on the recent Pew poll on religion in the '08 presidential campaign.

This Framing Science post plays up the fact that over a third of Americans wouldn't hold an atheist's non-region against him/her. Muslims and Mormons fare a little better, but still, almost half of Americans would hold a Muslim's religion against him/her.

Perhaps there's some positive trend nobody mentioned, but at face-value, it's a disgrace. Religion is not much more of a choice than race. Most everyone takes the religion of their parents. So... would it be good news if things had gotten to the point where a third of Americans wouldn't hold the fact that someone is black/asian/hispanic against them? Being of a certain religion (or even of any) is not something on which we should judge our leaders (or any individual for that matter).

I thought that we were supposed to judge people on their actions, and on their morale character.