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Friday, May 15, 2009

So, my local fishwrap is going out of business. Itís no big loss, as I long ago found them unequal to the task of wrapping fish properly. Youíd think they would at least try to get that right.
Kate Marymont, Gannett Co. vice president for news, told the newspaper's staff Friday that the paper will continue with a Web site edition providing commentary and opinion but no news coverage.
So, really, nothing at all has changed. I canít remember the last time I looked at one of the local newspapers - or any newspaper, for that matter - but if I had found some honest news in it, I probably would have kept buying it on occasion.

It seems that even in a desperate bid to find creative ways to remain in business, that approach was just too crazy to consider.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I watched the debate yesterday. No, just kidding. I had it on in the background while I read Neal Stephenson's "Anathem". It was powerful and engrossing, deeply edifying in a way that helps me make sense of my world. The debate, on the other hand would have bored me to tears if I had looked up from the book for more than a total of 60 seconds. The one impression I got from it, and I think it sums up the entire campaign, is that those of you who have been watching have seen John McCain turn into Bob Dole right there before your eyes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Well, she did it. Hillary's purpose today required somebody who could speak out of both sides of their mouth simultaneously, who could look you in the eye while stabbing you in the back, who could undermine while staying on the high road. She rose to the occasion as I knew she would.

The whole speech was damning by faint praise. The pundits pretty much covered that. I didn't count, but I think she mentioned McCain's name more often than she mentioned Obama's, and there was as little fire in her condemnation of McCain as there was in her praise of Obama.

But did you see what she did to Michelle? I've never seen anyone at a political event such as this throw more overt hatred toward the podium than the little Missus did tonight. If there was any purpose besides self aggrandizement and firing up her base to that introductory video, it could only have been to piss off Michelle. Then, right off the bat, the fourth line of the speech: "I'm a proud American." It wasn't the words, but the blatantly mocking tone. It was a shot fired across Michelle's bow.

Why piss off Michelle? Watch for it in the next few days, the next time they let her speak publicly after they think she's cooled off a bit. That look in her eyes tonight said she'll never forget, and never forgive. Hillary!'s hoping the vision of an angry black woman on everybody's TeeVees will put McCain in the White House and leave the 2012 nomination without an incumbent presumptive.

That mission accomplished, she turned her attention and simultaneous lack of attention on Barack. I'm sure that if this speech hadn't been so carefully crafted for other purposes, she could have found the bulk of it on the net complete with "Fill in candidate name here" blanks. A political Mad Lib.

When she wasn't making everybody's eyes glaze over in preparation for losing the next Barack mention in white noise, she was busy reminding us of Barack's "57 states" gaffe with her emphasis on having been to all 50 states plus Guam and the territories. Again, watch for the tone of that if you see a clip later.

Then, and this was a master stroke:
"John McCain is a friend, and he's served this country with honor and courage, but we don't need ...." beat .... "four more years..."
What do you think the people in that audience, and the millions on TV filled in that beat with? I know I did. Talk about damning with faint praise: "Vote for Obama because we don't need honor and courage." And she never had to say it out loud.

Oh the subtlety - sheer genius. She knew she only had to turn a few of her supporters over to McCain, and maybe convince a few more that they have better things to do on the first Tuesday in November, in order to have a clear shot four years from now. That she did it without once getting her hands dirty was quite an accomplishment.

UPDATE: Evidence that she nailed it. Of course, it's reported as evidence that she fell short of what she was trying to accomplish, but that's because everybody was reporting that her purpose was to "heal" the divisions, rather than deepen them. I'm sure the leaders of all those pro Hillary groups that suddenly sprung up out of nowhere (wink wink, nudge nudge) after she lost the primary were told to keep up the good work. The WaPo article is part and parcel of that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"the entire host city has been turned into a kind of Potemkin Olympic village"

That's Andrew Gilligan, not The Skipper's L'il Buddy.

As I commented elsewhere, commies are great at staging, not so great on substance. At this rate, the impression of China the world takes away from it's big coming out party might be a whiff of desperation. Makes one wonder how much else about China is a carefully crafted illusion, eh?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Wow, a lot more fireworks last night, of the natural kind. Tucson is in it's "monsoon" season, which, for those of you not familiar with exotic language, means rainy season. The word monsoon means "backward wind", or something like that. What happens this time of year (till about September) is that the prevailing winds shift from the south, bringing lots of moisture up from Mexico.

Add to that the typical 100-105 daily highs and you get two things: unbearably hot and humid days, and lots of convection. For the next three months, nearly every afternoon and evening will see a buildup of very small - often much less than a mile across - but very intense storms, first over the mountains, then moving across the city as the sun goes down and the temps drop. We say here that when the weather report lists a 30% chance of rain, it does not mean that there is a 30% chance that it will rain, but that there is a 100% chance it will rain, with a 30% chance it will hit your house.

Last night was looking uneventful, until after dark one storm popped up just northwest of me, moving my direction. It ended up not so much moving, as developing and expanding almost right over me, and almost stationary (I was watching the live doppler radar feed on the weather channel). These monsoon storms produce rain heavier than I've ever seen in the midwest. I've seen it rain so hard when driving once, that I could not see the ground in front of the car all of a sudden.

But they usually move fast and dissipate fast, and so this intense rain lasts 5-10 minutes, with lighter rain for a few minutes either side of the core. This time, this intensity went on for a full half-hour, with normal midwest thunderstorm type heavy rain continuing for another half hour. The NWS said that a rain gauge near my house measured 1.14 inches in the first 20 minutes, with a total of 1.69 for the night. On top of this, I went outside at one point to stick my hand out from under the patio canopy, just to feel how hard it was coming down, when I saw a flash as bright as someone snapping a camera from a few feet away, and before my eyes could even recover, I felt the loudest and sharpest thunder clap I've ever heard in my life. I actually felt it as a pressure wave.

I expect to see reports of flooding today, since the farmland - rapidly developing into housing - where all this water drains is very low-lying, and has been completely under water several times in the past. We looked at buying a house in that area one time, but it smelled musty.

Anyway, I live near a wash that only has water in it maybe ten days a year, and whenever it rains, the toads are all out there singing away, each trying to convince the lady toads that he has the swankiest mud puddle in town, and wouldn't it be nice to come up to his place for a nightcap. After these storms, the puddles left in the wash for a few days after the water drains into the river - which will also be drained dry by the end of today, I'm sure - are usually filled with tadpoles, so apparently, at least some of that croaking pays off.

So, we're in the house watching TV after all this, with the back door wide open, both so the dog can come and go, and so we can smell the rain and get the temporarily cool breeze, when Sally gives out a yell of disgust and despair. I figured it was a mouse, or a roach, or some other vermin, but no, there were toads hopping down the hall. These are Colorado River toads, the kind you can get high by licking. We've occasionally had an adult in the backyard, and they get to be about 6-8 inches long. The ones in our hallway were teenagers, maybe an inch and a half long. It was kind of funny to see, even just the idea of it, but we had to get them out of there. Aside from the risk of stepping on one and getting all the squishies between our toes, the same chemical that gets adventurous human teenagers high can be fatal to dogs. So for the next little while, we were scattering furniture, chasing frogs, dropping inverted glasses over them, sliding a piece of cardboard under the glass, and putting them back in the mud outside.

It's a strange place, this desert I live in.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

With all the complainin' I do here, I thought it would be nice to talk about someone I've had a great experience with. I've lately been making a point of honing and developing my practical, hands-on skills - the kind that requires actual tools and a good hand cleaner. Owning a 30 year old house that I've done harely any maintenance on in the 5 years I've owned it pretty much forces my hand on that, but rather than just forcing myself to get done whatever needs doing, or paying someone to do it, I've jumped in with all (well, most) of the enthusiasm I bring to learning a lot of other things.

This means a lot of trips to Home Depot, and the like. Home Depot used to be great, but they've really let themselves go lately. I'm sure you're familiar with the "can somebody help me... help meee.... help meeeeee... echoing through the vast empty Grand Canyon of Home Depot aisles, with nobody in sight, possibly for days. I've seen those orange-vested maniacs actually turn and run at the sound of "excuse me...". I swear I once saw a tumbleweed bouncing down the aisle, and there's the story of the guy who died of thirst in the lawn-tractor section, whose body was not discovered for two weeks.

OK, I made all that up, so, Home Depot corporate toady, put the phone down, you don't need your lawyers. And Lowe's is not one bit better. Well, except for the month after the new Lowe's opened up a half mile from the Home Depot I go to - they both had absolutely fawning "associates" and every checkout lane open all day for that month. After that, not so much.

Oh, did I say I was not going to complain? So, I've started preferring Ace Hardware, and they're pretty good, but their selection is limited. Still, it's a far better experience than HD or Lowe's, and even with the limited selection, they have things that the Big Two wouldn't even think to carry. But if you don't live in Tucson, prepare to get jealous, because the real gem only has stores here.

Naughton's specializes in HVAC and plumbing. They're about a tenth the size of an HD, but their selection within their specialty is far better. Good prices too, and they'll order whatever they don't have. But the best is their customer service. It's the prefect mix of helpful and not overbearing.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to learn how to work with copper pipe - before I needed to, since I expect half the copper in this house to just explode or completely disintegrate any day now, and some of it already has. I read up on the basics, and headed to Naughtons for the first time. I wandered in and looked around for a bit, to get the lay of the land, see where the best watering holes were, that kind of thing. Then I looked up with that expectant look that says "can you help me..." No echo this time. Here, the guy was at my side like he'd been waiting for that look, but wouldn't bother me until I'd sent a clear signal. It's as good as the waitress that always keeps your coffee or drink full, but never interrupts your conversation.

Anyway, I told the guy I was a total noob, and just wanted a random selection of pipe and fittings, and all the other goodies. He was right on top of it, finding all the things I'd need (torch, cutter, solder and flux, etc.), including the ones I wouldn't have thought of or forgotten (burnishing cloth). He showed some of the more expensive varieties, but made it clear that the less expensive stuff was all I'd need to get started. And then he gave me a quick primer on soldering the pipes.

It's hard to explain just how perfect this was. Very few businesses of any kind get this customer service thing down just right. It's partly a function of knowing and caring about the things you sell, but it's also about dealing with customers as people instead of statistics, and approaching the interaction as a person rather than a talking monkey trying to execute a pre-planned and scripted one-size-fits-all piece of performance art. I'm not your audience, I'm a guy that has questions and needs and am willing to spend money to get them answered and fulfilled. The more quickly you move me towards the checkout lane, the less stuff I'll have in my cart, and the less quickly I'll be back.

My second trip to them just now, for a much more mundane purpose, was just as good. And at a different location, too, so it tells me it's the way they operate, not just a particularly good employee - an "isolated incident".

And while I'm at it, have I mentioned that Amazon just completely kicks ass? I needed a bench vice to hold the pipe while I soldered, and since it's a generally handy thing to have. This one from Stanley, was just perfect. Steel construction, removable rubber pads on the jaws with v-notches underneath for holding round objects like copper pipe, and a three-axis adjustable head angle. It's the perfect light-duty thing for what I needed, and it was under $30.00 total price on Amazon, with free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime.

I know, Billy, it's not really capitalism at work here, but occasionally the basic decency, innovation, and moral self-interest of the human race manages to make that wooden decoy function as a pretty good fascimile of an actual duck. Despite all the obstacles to it, a lot of people really do want to trade value for value, and quite a few manage to make it happen anyway.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I've apparently managed to shock Glenn. Though if he thinks I might be right, it's technically not cynical.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I'm browsing through the "search phrases" section of my referrer logs, and it struck me that I've left a footprint on the "world wide web" thing that everyone is talking about. Small as it is, that footprint is a bit of a snapshot of the kinds of services that internet surfers the world over have come to count on from me. Where would the world be without my take on the following subjects? These subjects, after all, must be of vital importance to someone, if they take the effort to type them into such a sophisticated tool as The Almighty Google.



And my favorite:

Mariao Lanza Dysfunctional

As a twisted bonus, now, any future searches for these phrases will now turn up an exact match on this article, doing the searcher absolutely no good whatsoever. My devious world-monkey-wrenching plan is proceeding nicely. Bwahahahah.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I learned my first Japanese phrase the other day.

Kiiri na yuki, tabe na.

Don't know if that is spelled "right", I just did it phonetically.

I have a friend at work who is somewhat fluent in Japanese. We were talking about stuff, and I so asked him to translate this phrase for me. I won't tell you what it means, not directly, but it's kind of funny thing to be the only thing I can say in a language, particularly Japanese. Now, if I can figure out how to translate "Watch out where the huskies go", I've got the start of a song.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Itís finally time to start fixing up my house. Itís 30 years old, was just this side of a ďfixer-upperĒ when I got it, and has become one since due to an underfunded maintenance budget. Now I have a small but workable fix Ďer up budget, and since Iím figuring I will want to sell sometime in Ď09, itís time to start learning some of this ďhome improvementĒ stuff Iíve been hearing so much about. And my budget is going to require a lot of sweat equity.

Anyhoo, I tore out the vanity in the master bath two weeks ago. Now that the shutoff valves are exposed, and since of the three that are in there, one leaks and the other two are near frozen from age, I figured those would be the first things I got my hands dirty on. My plan (always the first casualty), since this requires shutting off the water to the whole house, was to replace just one valve on Saturday morning, so that if I screwed it up, there was still time to call a plumber. We filled up a little kiddie pool we have for the dog to play in full of emergency water, made sure the toilets were topped up, and made sure we had some bottled drinking water. This way, if the worst happened, we could live like it was a log-cabin for however long it took to get a plumber to put it all back together.

The valve replacement went without a hitch. Itís a really easy job, and, once all the water drained out of the pipes (it took me twenty minutes to realize it would have taken all day without the other faucets open to let the air in), it took all of three minutes. So now its time to turn the main supply back on. Sally is outside, Iím in the bathroom yelling out to her through the window ďOK, turn it onĒ. Nothing happens. No leaks, which is good, but no water from the open shower faucet either. Hmm.

I go outside and start turning, while Sally goes inside and watches for any signs of water, either where it is supposed to be or where it is not supposed to be. Nothing. 20 turns, 30 turns, 40, 50, not a drop.

The main shutoff valve is was 30 years old, too. Of all the petty annoyances, my first real plumbing repair goes great, but another piece chooses just that moment to fail.

Four hours and $270.00 to Roto Rooter later, all is well. We have water where it is supposed to be, and none coming out any part of the new bathroom valve that it isnít supposed to. Next weekend, then, the other two valves, and maybe more bathroom demo. Of course, now, the budget is a bit tighter.

This house is going to be a money pit, I just know it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sorry if anyone saw weird things happening in my RSS feed in the last few hours. I discovered a bug in the Nucleus blog scripts, and posted then deleted a number of test posts to narrow it down.

Just in case anyone out there is googling this (and I'll try to hit the keywords you might use if you have this problem), here's the bug and my solution (applies to Nucleus CMS version 3.23). The "Add Item" function, and the "Edit Item" functions choke on any URL with the word "root" in the path. The error manifests as a 406 "Unacceptable" code with some text about being "unable to locate a proper resource for...". It's a strange error, but I think the PHP script was trying to dereference the "root" to my blog URL, and then looking for the remainder of the URL at that root. It shouldn't be doing that.

The workaround was to url-encode the path, like this "%72oot". This just uses the hex ascii code for the letter 'r', and since it is not decoded until the server gets the request, the PHP script on my side can't read it.

Note that this is for an older version of Nucleus, and so I am surprised I haven't hit it before this. I haven't upgraded to the newer version because the script that backs up the db has a bug in it, too, and that makes me very wary of the risks of updating, particularly without a reliable backup. Other than that, Nucleus is great, really. And these issues may well be fixed in the new versions.
Rich has some very nice comments about my "return" to blogging. Heís going to give me a big head, but I sure do appreciate it regardless. As to that ďreturnĒ, Iím not committing to any regular output, nor even to keeping it up, though I do indeed feel that burning need to get some words out again.

I never explicitly decided to stop back in (holy crap!) June, when I made my last post before these recent ones.

I just found that I had become more interested in taking things in, and analyzing things, than in spouting off about them. I guess thatís changed now, but donít count on it not changing back again in the future. Iíve always done this for myself, and while itís nice to have readers, and I understand that their regular readership deserves to be acknowledged by providing as much value as I can in return, the kind of writing I do here does not lend itself to being forced due to external commitments.

So, enjoy it for now, so long as you find it enjoyable, and if I hit another dry spell, just keep the RSS subscription active, and you never know when Iíll pop back up on the radar.

And thanks again, Rich.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It is no longer possible to argue that ABC News is not pursuing a specific agenda regarding guns.

This poll is about as biased as you can get. They might as well ask if you've stopped molesting your children yet.

How about: "No, gun control is why it is possible for one person to kill so many so easily."

UPDATE: Confederate Yankee has more about ABC.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Al, the Old Whig, informs me that The Objective American Daily is apparently gone. It's been on my blogroll from the start. E.G. Ross, the sole writer of what was essentially a blog before they were called that, was an outstanding writer and analyst, and his incessant optimism was as refreshing as it was rational. He died several years ago, suddenly from a brain aneurysm. I know it was after 9/11, but I think before the US invaded Afghanistan, certainly before the Iraq invasion. I really miss reading what he would have had to say about all that.

As I said in my comment below, I had started some time ago to pull down his articles, with the thought of possibly offering to mirror them here, at least to have them for myself to read, but I never finished. Alas, now I may never get the chance.

UPDATE Good news! The Wayback Machine has the articles. Enjoy Thanks a bunch, Rich.

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John T. Kennedy hasa good point in a comment over at Rich's place about the Rutgers girls. I heard roughly the same take from an offline friend just after posting about it. Basically it's this: they are young and naive, and, rather than knowingly trying to gain advantage from this, they just got sucked into the Sharpie vortex.

That could be, it's probably even likely, but it doesn't really change my take on it. Knowingly or not, they are playing the part that the pimp Sharpton would have them play. If it is just naivete, then the tragedy of what they have lost is all the greater for them. But either way, they will have lost something extremely important to a vile predator, something that could only be given willingly, and that Imus could never in a million continuous hours of slurs and epithets ever have come close to touching. Sharpton feeds on other people's honor, integrity, and dignity. He consumes them, and leaves the empty husks behind.

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ADMIN NOTE: Hmm, I just noticed that the title of this makes no sense whatsoever. Oh well, chalk it up to another brain fart.

Monday, April 09, 2007

My web host had a server problem yesterday, and when my site got restored, the CAPTCHA for comments was somehow lost. I've had to disable comments for now until I can fix it.

UPDATE: Comments are now reenabled. Have at it, unless you're a goddamn spamer, then please go somewhere and die a horribly painful and lingering death.