Saturday, January 31, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

School, Dentist, Pharmacy, Blah, Blah, Blah

Debbie had a long dentist appointment today and I needed a blood draw for a doctor's appointment next week. My blood draw only took about five minutes, so I spent the rest of the two hours sitting in the car reading stuff for school. Then we swung by the pharmacy to make a quick pick-up, then home where I did another 500 words or so, then decided my brain couldn't take anymore. So I hit all my regular websites spending most of the time watching Wil Wheaton playing Rock Band at last weekend's Phoenix Comicon. Next year, we are definitely going. It's only a two-hour drive from here.

Not much else going on today. Sort of a slow day. I'm getting concerned about the class that is supposed to start on Monday as I once again do not have my books for the class. I will be contacting people on Monday to find out what the heck is going on. How hard is it to ship some books? It's not like I ordered books from some Gomer selling books on eBay from his mom's basement. This is a university! And they can't get this right?

Which makes a nice transition into an essay based on comments Jerry Pournelle made at a conference on threats to the United States. His assessment was simple: the crap education system from kindergarten through grad school is the biggest threat to our country. If anyone needs proof, just look at Wall Street where all the best and brightest have brought the entire world to the verge of financial collapse doing things a high school drop-out could tell you were beyond stupid.

Speaking of beyond stupid, want proof that the Chinese will be walking on the moon while we are still trying to get back to the space station?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Better Day

Feeling a bit more productive today. I completed a couple thousand words by noon and decided to take a short break. I'm still breaking four hours later. But that's OK; I got more done today than I did all day yesterday, and I will get back at it after dinner tonight. With some luck I can put another thousand words or so to bed and actually feel like I'm caught up.

We may be seeing the end-game for the Spirit rover. The NASA guys may be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat once again, but we may soon be down to only one functioning surface rover on Mars. Given that the rovers were only expected to live three months or so, no one can really complain about Spirit only making it to five years. That doesn't mean that this won't be a sad day if it can't be revived.

On the economic front, the recent stock rally came to a decisive end today. No one should be surprised by that; any stock rallies for the next six months and maybe all 2009 will be suckers' rallies. Not hard to figure out why: record numbers on unemployment, while the financial wizards on Wall Street punish themselves for the worst one-year performance in history by giving themselves only the sixth-biggest bonus ever. Oh the pain. Maybe we should all send some canned goods and mac & cheese.

Our weather out here has been a bit dicey, getting down in the teens at night and only up to the high forties during the day. Two days ago, we even had snow. You read that right: snow!! It was gone in less than 24 hours, so I didn't have to get my winter boots out of storage, but it was a close call. Of course, we could live in Kentucky. Some people there will be waiting until mid-February for electricity. Ouch.

In the interest of some light reading, here is a story that tops pretty much everything. Paging Thomas Hobbes. A good example of how dysfunctional government is indistinguishable from no government. State of nature, indeed.

And just because I haven't gotten to use HCHSBTSPODTUTBGTUTHADHOI in a while. I wonder how many times I have to use that before it shows up in Google searches?

And I just checked: the answer is twice. I'm almost famous!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stabbing Jello

Fred Reed just put up an essay on Gaza:
As I write, Israel is using a military designed to fight hostile countries to fight a hostile population. In the modern world, this has seldom worked. To defeat a country you destroy its military and capture its territory. But Gaza has little military to destroy, no tanks or aircraft, and Israel already owns its territory. The IDF can invade but, afterward, the population will still be there, and still be hostile. Stabbing jello doesn’t buy you much.

Stabbing Jello, besides being an awesome name for a band, kind of describes a lot of what is going on these days. Our new president and congress are up to their armpits in plans to stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, WWII vets are freezing to death in their homes and the sense of doom is driving other people to the breaking point of sanity. Merrill Lynch employees still got their bonuses for destroying $15 billion of their clients wealth in three months. Just how badly do you have to screw up on Wall Street to not get a bonus?

I feel like I'm stabbing my own jello here trying to make headway on my college work. I did make some progress, but not near as much as I wanted to get done. The problem is that I just can't seem to put together a sentence that makes any sense, and I have six writing assignments that I'm juggling right now and a third class that starts on Monday.

So instead of blogging, I should probably be doing school work. But the alternative is to stare at the screen without getting any school work done anyway, so here I am. And I just ran out of words.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Remember That!

The first PC application I ever used was the original Lotus 1-2-3. I would sit in from of a Compaq "luggable" for 8 hours a day running revenue analysis for funeral homes, trying to figure out how a new business could afford a bank loan, tracking cash that clients tried to hide from us (and by extension, the IRS) through a maze of interconnected businesses, client lists, due dates, you name it. All stored on 5 1/4" floppies that could only hold 360K. That wasn't a big deal when the Compaq only had 256K RAM, but when I upgraded it to 1024K, suddenly you could make a spreadsheet that you couldn't save. I solved that by replacing one of the floppy drives with a full-height monster 10MB hard drive that sounded like a cement mixer when you accessed data on it.

Ah, the memories. My fingers still reach for the / key everytime I want insert a row or save a file or format a cell, even though I haven't used 1-2-3 since the late 1980's. Those commands are in muscle memory meaning that it's just like riding a bike. The body never forgets.

That wasn't the first computer application I used. Before hiring into the CPA firm where I learned 1-2-3, I got to play with an IBM System 36 and RPG II. If you look at the picture at that link, the bulge on the top left is the 8" floppy drive; the one on the top right was used to IPL the system and perform some maintenance tasks that couldn't be done from a terminal. The system in the picture could hold one or even two hard drives. And a second chassie could be mounted on the side (it was the same height and depth, and half the width of the main unit) that would hold up to two more hard drives. You could have as little drive space as a single 30MB drive, or as much as 4 716MB drives. As late as the early 1990's, the software I worked on for VWoA had to fit on a 60MB machine so the dealerships wouldn't have to upgrade their hardware, because any sort of ugrade started in the 5 figures.

I'm typing this on a decrepit laptop with only a gig of RAM, 100GB hard drive and a lousy 1.6GHz dual core with a connected Drobo that has 3 500GB drives giving 1TB usable disk space. All for half what that Compaq luggable cost.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stayin' Alive

I'm pretty much caught up with college at this point. I'll need to check the online forums tomorrow for responses to some of my posts there and give my essay its last read-through before submitting it tomorrow night. Then it's a whole new list of to-do's for that class, plus my second class kicking off. Don't expect much here or expect what is here to be very coherent. I'm been away from school for three or four years, so it will take a bit to get back in the swing, especially with one of the classes being on an accelerated schedule.

And just to keep everyone on their Prozac, today saw the third bank failure of 2009, and on Friday, Iceland became the first government to be forced from power by the economic crisis. 2009 is off to a good start.

Off to bed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Woohoo!

The UPS dude just dropped off my textbooks, so I have about 100 pages of reading to do tonight, plus post a couple hundred words as my first assignment, then get cranking on a 500-word essay on what I just read.

And Fred continues to make me want to spend some time in Mexico. Talking about his favorite bar:
Once I looked up and a horse had its head in the door. Its owner had ridden to Tom’s and parked, and I guess the horse wondered what was inside. So it stuck its head in to see. It’s what I would have done.

Yep. Ajijic, Mexico. Definitely on the list.

Well, I need to e-mail my instructor and get to readin'.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our 44th President

I'm a little late with something about the inauguration. Luckily, this isn't a news site. Anyway.

I wish the Obama's well. The country could use some positive news about now, although I'm pretty sure it will be in short supply for the rest of 2009. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I am. Jerry Pournelle sums it up well: we can take great pride in yet-another peaceful transition of power. That is something we take for granted, but is historically rare. Once again, some in the Congress seem to want that to change. We can hope that this is just verbal payback for the right-wing nonsense back when W took over for Clinton. If this ever happens; if there is ever a case where quietly packing your bags and leaving the White House becomes dangerous to the person doing the leaving, it's game over for the Republic.

I really hope that the morning (female-dominated) "news" shows quit obsessing over the Obama girls. Leave the kids out of it. Stop reporting on what they wear, what the school cafeteria is serving for lunch, what brand of backpack they have, blah, blah, blah. Just. Shut. Up. If you can't find anything more important to talk about, consider a change in career. I'm sure someone needs a maid. Leave the kids alone. And leave their mother alone as well. If she isn't attending a public event, Michelle doesn't exist as far as the "news" media are concerned.

Speaking of good news. GM is no longer the largest auto company in the world. The best unintentionally funny line in the article is a quote from Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis: "I don't think being No. 1 in vehicle sales means much at all to the American consumer...." Right, Mike. Now that you're not number one, it isn't important. I can hear similar sentiments from six-year-olds on any playground: "Well, fine! I didn't wanna play your stupid game anyway!" Good luck with that, Mike. Oh, and how's that "viability" plan you promised Congress coming along?

And still no books for my class. Maybe tomorrow. If not, this whole thing may be screwed up before I even start.

Comfortably Numb

With apologies to Pink Floyd, I'm not really comfortable; just numb. Specifically, my tongue and lower jaw, thanks to a trip to the dentist this morning. I had some sort of ultra-deep cleaning that involved a squeaky ultrasound doohickey being scraped on my teeth and lasers burning something that smelled like wet leaves. I'm not sure I even want to know. I can't talk or swallow, so I'm sitting on the couch right now drooling on myself.

Yesterday was consumed with trying to get things straightened out for college. It turns out that the class that is supposed to start next Monday actually started yesterday. Why they don't just say that the class starts on January 20 instead of January 26 is completely beyond my comprehension. My books were shipped to Michigan because every computer system at Cornerstone has a different address for me, none of them correct. I have given my correct address five times both on-line and over the phone, and yet....

Anyway, my books are on the way here. I've already contacted the instructor to let them know that I will most likely miss the first due date (which is four days before the class "starts") because it's a little hard to write anything intelligent about what you have read when you don't have the books. He seems OK with it, which means either he is really laid back, or this sort of screw up happens on a regular basis.

The funny part was one of the responses I got to my original e-mail stating that I didn't have my books, I didn't have any way to log on to the system to get assignments, etc., I hadn't received any statements from the accounting department, that I didn't even know for sure what my student ID number was: "I'm sorry you feel uninformed." FEEL uninformed?!? I WAS uninformed!!

In any case, if this is our best and brightest at work, we really are doomed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Unexpected Holiday

I didn't realize that Debbie had today off until last Friday when she said something about not working on Monday. I knew she had some sort of doctor appointment, so I figured its was going to be long enough that she was just taking a day off. But noooooo; AAA is closed on MLK Day or Diversity Day or Black Monday or whatever the heck they call it these days. Seems to be a strange day to be closed for what is essentially a retail operation, but what do I know. I'm just a 44 year old unemployed dishwasher/college student.

Yesterday, there was a meeting of Prescott bloggers at Casa Sanchez. About a dozen of the 40+ Prescott-area bloggers were there. It was nice to put faces to some of the people I've bumped into on the net. We are going to shoot for the second Sunday of every month so everyone will be in the RealWorld at least once a month. Once my on-line classes kick in next week, it will probably be the only RealWorld contact I have until mid-May.

Not much else going on. It was quiet around town while eveyone sat inside glued to the boob tube to see if the Cardinals would be in the Superbowl. We've been sitting around watching Battlestar Galactica, Monk, and Pretender on Hulu the entire weekend. We may do some cleaning and/or hang our new artwork, or if we get really ambitious we may walk downtown and hit the new exhibit at Arts Prescott. Or just sit around watching more Battlestar Galactica, Monk and Pretender. It just feels like one of those weekends. Which we've had a pretty impressive streak of.

Speaking of Prescott area bloggers, I'm going to build a new section over on the right just for those. Many of the blogs are about the persons art or craft, but a lot are pretty much what you find here. Anyone who wants a cross-section of Prescott, you could do worse than running through the list.

When I worked at Volkswagen, several of us in the geek... er... IT department noticed that there was a high correlation between geek and photography, model railroads, and aquariums. Nearly every one of the 100+ people in IT had at least one, and usually two or three, of those interests. And it wasn't a casual interest, it was all-out mega-bucks hobby. The exceptions were the women, who just looked at the men like they had just grown a second head whenever the lunch conversation inevitably turned to building saltwater filtration systems or some such. The reason I bring this up is that the blogger meeting was essentially a photography geek-fest, so it will be interesting to see how many of the rest of the Prescott bloggers are heavy into their photography. Or model railroads, or aquariums.

Anyway, need to get typing.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How Much More Will Taxpayers Take?

Can you say, "Bend over!"?

You know things are bad when then best news of the day involves a plane crash.

Quick Break

Trying to catch up after two days of slacking, so this is going to have to be short and sweet.

First up, another view on how bad things are at the state and local level. And it looks like California is leading the race to the bottom.

And Ricardo Montalban passed away at the age of 88. One of the best characters in the entire Star Trek universe was Khan. It almost makes up for Fantasy Island....

A group of Brits are trying to break the land speed record for steam power. Sweet.

And to wrap things up, a little blues via Tombo's Blog:



Know how you feel, buddy.

Well, break's over. Back to work.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lost Day

I'm writing off the entire day. This internet thing is really addictive.

Anyway, on the global warming front:

-23 degrees F in Pellston, Michigan.
-19 degrees F in Flint, Michigan.

Good thing the Obama administration is going to jump right on that global warming thing. Forget about the crashing economy, we have to cool things off quick!!

And I may not have made my latest floor for oil prices low enough. This is the price that will be paid for oil in February, so does that mean gas prices will start back down? To where? Less than a buck a gallon? Key sentence:
For all of 2008, U.S. petroleum deliveries—a measure of demand—fell 6 percent to 19.4 million barrels a day, with declines for all major products made from crude, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

All we have to do is Keep It Up!!

You Gotta Watch This


Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

I know, I know. I'm supposed to be getting stuff done.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Househusband: Day Three

Househusband went on strike today. OK, not completely on strike, but I didn't accomplish what I wanted to today. I must have fallen asleep reading or something, because I have about three hours I can't account for. I need a hobby or something.

Anyway, the web is still quiet; even other bloggers are noticing a fall-off in traffic and comments. Probably has something to do with a third of the country being in the deep-freeze. But I did find some things of interest.

I love the guys that do Yahoo's Tech Ticker. Yesterday, they had a piece on the bank bailout, with special attention paid to Citi, who just put up a $10 billion loss. Stop the charade, indeed. As much as I hate to see private industry nationalized, I find having profits privatized and losses socialized even more disturbing. If Citi is so poorly run that it needs 10's of billions in taxpayer dollars to survive, then shareholders and bondholders should be wiped out. End discussion. In Citi's (and other national bank's) defense, they have stopped sending home equity loan offers to our apartment....

Retails sales in December were worse than expected and pushed retail negative for the year for the first time in a quarter century. Duh. This is, of course a "disaster" because retail sales "plummeted" 0.1%. Welcome to reality.

Under-18 girls are being arrested for child pornography for taking naked pictures of themselves with their cellphones and sending them to their boyfriends. Child porn is illegal on the theory that the person taking the pictures is exploiting the child and the child cannot truly consent as they are not of age. So in this case, we have 15-year-old girls being charged with exploiting themselves by taking nude pictures of themselves, and not consenting to themselves to have the pictures taken by themselves. For this, they will be dogged for life with felony child porn charges. And to repeat what I said a few days ago: what exactly did these "children" do wrong? Please support your answer with the appropriate moral framework that does not include any reference to deities.

And Warner Music Group again demonstrates that they are run by mental defectives. Which is more: $.01 times 1,000,000 views or $.10 times zero views? If you pick the former, you have a higher IQ than the entire executive suite at WMG.

Cool video:



Love JoCo.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Househusband: Day Two

Gave the office a thorough cleaning this morning. It takes forever because of all the stuff piled up on shelves, desks, etc. Tomorrow: the bedroom. Yes, you wanted to know that.

After I was done with chores, I was nosing around on the web and found something that looked interesting called Slicethepie. It's a music review site that you can actually make real money from. The music is pre-contract, so some of it is really bad, and it takes a serious investment of time to make anything from it, but it was fun. At least until the site blew up and kept giving me zero-length music tracks to "review." I headed over to the forums to see if it was a Firefox or Java problem and the very first forum thread, going back several months, was people complaining about zero-length tracks screwing up the works. (sigh) Never fails; a great idea shot down by shoddy programming.

Speaking of shoddy progamming, more problems with the Diebold voting machines. The audit trail is so poor, there is no way to know if votes were counted, re-counted, uncounted, or randomly deleted by the software. I spent the better part of a decade writing accounting software, which has audit trail requirements that are on the somewhat strict side (if you ever want audited financials, that is). If my work had been this grossly incompetent, I wouldn't have lasted a week at VWoA. With all the conspiricy nuts out there claiming that Obama is a Muslim, Obama isn't a US citizen, Obama's pastor (I thought Muslims called them imams?) is a racist, Obama is a communist, you would think voting machines that randomly delete votes and allow election officials to delete batches of votes without leaving any sort of audit trail would attract at least some attention.

I've mentioned several times that there will be another wave of bailouts when all the defined-benefit pension funds run out of money due to their portfolios losing 30-40% of their value in 2008. I've also mentioned that states, counties and municipalities will also need bailing out due to the drop in sales tax, income tax, and property tax receipts. Now combine those two disasters.

Evidence of global warming: 36 below.

Well, need to start thinking about dinner. I'm thinking tacos....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sampler Post

Happy Birthday, Debbie!!

Still not much happening either on the internet or in RealWorld. I'm back in house-husband mode doing cooking, cleaning, dishes. Wee!

Jerry Pournelle did have an interesting essay on what are the foundations of morality. The historical answer has been revelation from God or gods. But in a secular society, what do you use? Objectivism, utility, rational self-interest; all have been put forward, but all suffer a fatal flaw: why that system of morality? If you eliminate "Because God said so." then what makes your system The System? A 50% + 1 majority? Your guns are bigger or your thugs are more ruthless? You are a better debator?

Anyway, that discussion leads rather neatly into this news story:
Natalie Dylan, 22, claims her offer of a one-night stand has persuaded 10,000 men to bid for sex with her....

The student who has a degree in Women's Studies insisted she was not demeaning herself....

Miss Dylan, from San Diego, California, USA, said she was persuaded to offer herself to the highest bidder after her sister Avia, 23, paid for her own degree after working as a prostitute for three weeks....

"It's shocking that men will pay so much for someone's virginity, which isn't even prized so highly anymore."

And why not?

The best we can hope for in 2009: "The news is going to be unrelentingly bad for the next four to five months." Looks like I picked a good year to sit on the sidelines and take college classes. And it looks like we got rid of everything just in time so that I can sit this one out. If we were still in Michigan, we would be living in a cardboard box behind Denny's and eating out of the dumpster.

Will it be Fire or Ice? (HCHSBTSPODTUTBGTUTHADHOI) Pretty bad when Pravda comes closer to living up to it's name that the media in the "free world."

Not much of real interest tomorrow unless everyone wants to read about my housecleaning adventures and what's on the menu for dinner. So I'm off to bed.

Couch Potato

Spent the last three days mostly sitting on the couch. We did make it outside for a couple hours to buy some food and hit the library, and we even managed to do the laundry (only because the alternative involved phrases like "Captain Caveman!!"). But other than that, we ate, we slept, we read, we watched movies.

It was wonderful.

I ran through all my usual places on the intertubes, but everyone seems to be sitting on the couch as well. There just didn't seem to be much newsworthy going on out there in RealWorld. I'm sure part of it is the time of year combined with the lousy economy and topped off with the presidential transition that has everyone just checking off days until Obama gets sworn in.

So that's all that's happening in Sunny Arizona. Time for sleep.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bye Bye, Willie!


I said goodbye to Willie and the Rooster's Cafe today. I was only scheduled for two days this week, and was not even on the schedule for next week. This morning, I was called in early because prep was so far behind. Five minutes after I show up, the owners wife, as she habitually does, breezes into the kitchen, and literally pushes me out of the way without even acknowledging that I exist. So I left. The owner followed me out to the parking lot where I gave him some choice thoughts about him and his wife.

So. No more Rooster's. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Which is just as well with the college schedule I have coming up in a couple weeks. I'll just focus on getting my last six classes out of the way then worry about how we are going to eat after I'm done.

So while I have some time to kill, a little reminder that just because the news media has the attention span of a three-year-old doesn't mean that the lead story from a couple years ago has somehow gone away.

And the public schools continue in their primary mission, which as we know has nothing to do with education and everything to do with teaching the next generation to endure any form of degradation imposed by authority figures.

On a lighter note, there may be Stonehenge-type remains in Lake Michigan near Traverse City. It won't likely do much for tourism given that it takes scuba gear to see it, but still cool if it pans out.

Well, off to enjoy my "retirement."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Score!!

I was finally able to score some drugs today. It only took a month or so, but I can finally kick out the squatters in my lungs before they do serious damage. In the process, I found a clinic not too far from the apartment that wouldn't totally suck as a primary care provider. I need to talk to them about that in a couple months. It seems surreal to me; before moving to Arizona, I had exactly three primary care doctors. I changed from my first doctor only because he retired, and my second only because we moved 200 miles away. In two years in the territories, I've had the same number of primaries, and I'm looking for number four.

But none of that matters at this point. The important thing is the little bottle of pretty blue pills that will make all the bad stuff go away.

I was off work today because a) my job sucks and I don't get hours any more, and b) I needed a full day to try and score drugs. Debbie got cut loose early from her job because the economy sucks. So we used an Olive Garden gift card for lunch and a couple movie passes to go see Marley and Me. Holy Crap. DO NOT take small children to this movie, especially if said small children have a dog. The last 45 minutes or so of this movie will tear out their little beating hearts and stomp them to mush. Even for us it was... well... yea.

In brighter news, the feds will borrow $1.2 trillion. I remember when that was the entire budget. I remember when that was significantly more than the entire budget. That number doesn't include any of Obama's "stimulus" measures.

In typical fashion, job losses lag the recession, just as job claims lag the recovery. The new thing in the last month is that now those jobs are coming from small businesses that had hoped Santa would save them. He didn't. Expect to see lots of empty holes at the local mall.

The next financial implosion: pension funds. The feds should bail them out....

Evidence for man-made global warming continues to pile up:
Record snow in Spokane.
Dog sled race canceled: too much snow.
Twelve people die in Europe's cold and snow.

And it's only the first week of January. The really cold, harsh weather is still to come.

No Steve Jobs = crappy, boring keynote. The bright spot for me was that someone at Apple reads this blog: iTunes music will no longer have DRM and some very timorous first steps have been taken to reduce the cost of buying music through iTune.

OK; going to bed before I fall asleep on the couch.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Backing Up

I did our annual full backup last night and into the wee hours of this morning. It took 10 DVD's in total. One DVD held everything except MP3's and photos; those two directories filled the other nine. Obviously this is not a good strategy. For one, it's a pain to do, so I put it off. Second, the DVD's I have are not archival quality, so it's a crap shoot as to how long they will remain readable. Third, it is just dog slow doing it.

Besides all that, the largest directory (Movies) cannot be backed up to DVD's because nearly all the files are larger than what a DVD can hold. Nothing in there is as important as, say, our tax records, but it would still suck to lose it all. Tape drives, in my book, are a complete non-option at this point. They are just too expensive, the files are unreadable by anything other than the original hardware/software, and if burning a DVD is slow, backing up to tape is glacial.

So last night, I started a little experiment. I still have an aging Western Digital 60GB USB drive. I set up a batch job that uses xcopy commands (with the /D /S /C /I /R /K /Y switches) that dumps everything except the movies from the Drobo to the WD drive. Unplug it, hand it to Debbie to take to work and lock in her desk, and voi la: full copy of all our files in an unattended half hour or so, and easily stored off-site to boot. Once a week, she will bring it home, I rerun the batch job which updates changed files and adds new files (but does not remove deleted files), and give it back to her.

This is a short-term solution for a couple reasons. First, for those doing the math at home, there isn't a great deal of free space left on a 60GB drive holding 10 DVD's worth of files. Two or three more of our little weekend photography road trips, and it will be full. Second, this drive is already five or six years old and was starting to have some gremlins. But Western Digital makes a 120GB drive that Amazon sells for $75, so replacement isn't that painful. Over the next few months, I plan to pick up a couple that can be rotated to our off-site storage facility known as Debbie's Desk once a week, or anytime that I feel we need a backup (like after dumping a bunch of photos off the camera).

I may even go further than that and buy a USB drive just for annual backups. At $75, it would be pretty cheap to just plug the drive in, run the backup batch job, write the year on the drive with a Sharpie, and send it off-site to Debbie's Desk. I'm not sure how long a USB drive can sit around until all the 1's and 0's turn into 1/2's, but it's got to be good for a couple three years anyway. Each year, just buy a new drive. Eventually, the backups from three or four years ago can be reformated and used as door stops, building blocks for the kids, whatever. Which still leaves the Movie directory. There are USB drives up to and well beyond the 1TB capacity of our Drobo, but they tend to be slightly outside the casual-purchase price range. I may just not worry overly-much about it. If we get robbed or the apartment burns to the ground, we'll likely have bigger things to worry about than losing our digital copy of Wild Hogs.

Anyway, as you can probably tell, I'm sitting at home without much to do. I need to sign up for my last college class and order the books from Amazon, do some laundry and start thinking about what we will be doing for dinner tonight. I'm supposed to be working on the menu for the cafe, but I need questions answered and there isn't anyone around to answer them. I'm only scheduled to work 12 hours this week. Woo. Hoo. But that's all going to change when the new menu takes effect. Which I can't finish because three weeks into this, some basic decisions can't seem to get made. And which has items on it the cooks don't have the food to make anyway. But we're going to starting using the new menus tomorrow. Right.

In a little less than three weeks, I will be starting college classes. It looks like I made the right call by bunching everything up into five months; it's not like I'll have a job or anything.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

It Begins

Israel begins the ground invasion of Gaza. If you really want to understand what is going on, you could do worse than reading this, this, and this. Pushing any person or group to the point they have nothing to lose is bad strategy. It is also a handy way to remove ambivalence. A person who does not consider you a friend but does not hate you, will quickly come to curse your very existence if you back him in a corner. And before leaving the typical anonymous flames in the comments, do note that I didn't say who was pushing whom in this current situation.

State governments begin to collapse. Sales tax revenues are down significantly. Income tax revenues are down significantly. Property tax revenues are down precipitously. The financial collapse of counties and municipalities is also underway, but still hidden in the dust and debris. 2009 is not going to be a year of recovery.

Another industry begins to go into decline. Steel has gotten so beat up for so long that the industry had all the fat cut out long ago. That allowed them to do well until the fourth quarter of 2008, then the bottom fell out for them too. Double-digit unemployment is hard to bounce back from, as anyone who lived through the Carter administration knows.

You know it must be bad when even electronic devices begin committing mass suicide. Actually, it's "just" a leap-year bug, although the fact that there are people in the electronics industry who still don't know how the calendar works is frightening. Far better, of course, that they are screwing up Zunes rather than making $400,000 loans to people that make $17,000/year working five part-time jobs.

Well, off to spread some cheer elsewhere.

Lazy Morning

Spent the day so far sitting on the couch and plowing through my regular blogs instead of doing all the stuff I should be doing. So now I'm blogging while sitting on the couch instead of doing all the things I should be doing.

Jerry Pournelle's mail page has had some very worthwhile reading on it this week. My favorite so far is, as will come as no surprise to anyone, a massive broadside aimed at the world's newest religion: Anthropogenic Global Warming. I'm renewing my subscription today. (Jerry runs his site on the public radio model; voluntary contributions urged by some tasteful begging and not-so-subtle hints about making a living.) I think I'm past my year, but now it is on the first (or close enough for government work) so I have no excuse for forgetting to do it. If you spend any time on his site, I would encourage you to start 2009 the right way and do the same.

I thought my New Year day was bad because I was sick. At least that wasn't as bad start to 2009 as Scott Adams had.

OK, I need to get something accomplished today while the drugs are keeping the fever and coughing at bay.

Rovers, Job, Other

The Spirit Mars rover turned five today, and Opportunity will hit the same milestone on the 24th. Not bad for a 90-day mission.

I tried to go to work today, but there were already four people in the kitchen. I've been doing secretarial work (creating checklists, new menu, etc.) and the owner had some stuff I could work on at home. So I put in four hours on that and called it a day. I just don't see a happy ending here. If I had stayed at the cafe, there would have been eight employees total working in the cafe. That has to be close to $100/hour burdened labor when sales are optimistically about $500 a day.

Ah well. I got an e-mail from my adviser and I'm all set for college starting on January 26. I'm doing all six classes that I need for my degree between then and May 11, so if my job turns to crap or goes away completely, it will make my life easier. At least for getting homework done. Paying the bills might be another matter, but we'll hardly be alone in that.

John Travolta's son died Friday after apparently having a seizure, falling, and hitting his head. What would be tragic may turn out to be much more. Travolta and wife are practicing Scientologists and the son has a history of health problems that the parents have in the past treated with such standard claptrap as detoxification. Depending on what the autopsy turns up, this could get ugly. I don't know what sort of person John Travolta is, but I've enjoyed watching his acting since his Welcome Back Kotter days. The fact that he stays more or less out of the news means he is probably a fairly normal person who just happens to subscribe to a belief systems that is popular with the Hollywood crowd even while being seriously wacked.

I didn't include resolutions in my New Years Day post because I was barely conscious due to high fever. I normally don't in any case, or have a list like Bob Thompson's. But this year may be different. One year ago, I was 190 pounds. Then I started working around food all day and taking a half-dozen meds that all cause weight gain. That isn't their primary function, according to the label, but it's the only thing they do predictably. I am now over 230 again. The meds haven't really fixed what they were prescribed for, but they certainly made me fat. So I'll be working on that this year both for myself and as support for Debbie meeting her resolution.

And of course, completing my four-year college degree 27 years after I started it will be 2009's biggest achivement. Maybe I should just be happy with that.

Not much else happening. I got up our Christmas and Vegas photos. I want to try to get downtown this weekend if only to get out of the apartment for a bit. With some luck, I'll be doing some data gathering as well, about Macs and local scanning and printing services from some local artists. I also need to look into getting my parents into the digital photo age when they don't have a computer. I'm sure it's possible, but I haven't done it that way, so I have no clue about availability or cost.

Well, I need sleep.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

It is that time again ---- I don't remember all my resolutions from last year (and too lazy to go back and look them up). This year I am deciding to be a bit different with my resolutions. I decided to do one resolution a month. A month seems more manageable than a year.

My January resolution is one that is almost always a resolution -- to lose weight. This time, I am being more specific. First, it is just one month; second, I am setting a certain realistic amount to lose.

Of course, I didn't start too well. I'm sure Ric mentioned while in Vegas we stopped by the Ethel M chocolate factory. We ended up getting an assorted selection of 48 pieces we personally selected. (24 for each of us) Well ...... I finished up my layer today. Not sure why -- maybe in my mind if I ate it all now, it would not bother me later this month?!

I have some work out videos I borrowed from a coworker that I have not even pretended to pop in the VCR. I want to work on looking at them and seeing if I will use them. I saw part of one that my newest niece used while I was staying with them while in Michigan. If I don't find one I like, I may ask Melissa to get the name of the one she was using for me.

Well....wish me luck. I wish you all luck out there that make a resolution that they want to try to keep.

Happy New Year

It's 2009.

We're both home today; Debbie because she works for a real business, me because I'm still too sick to be handling food. We just spent the last hour driving around trying to find something other than an ER room that is open. All of the after-hour and urgent care clinics close on weekends and holidays here in the territories. My doctor has no answering service and no emergency number. I'm supposed to have a note from a doctor when I go back to work, but that presupposes that there is a doctor available.

Just love living in the third world.

So we stopped at Walgreens and stocked up on OTC meds instead of something that will actually address the root problem I've had for six weeks. That should keep me going until it gets bad enough that even the mental defectives that pass for doctors out here can't pretend that there isn't anything wrong with me.

Anyway, that's how 2009 is starting for us.