Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The weather is the topic of conversation today. We woke up to snow; on the ground and in the air. Tomorrow is supposed to get up 70 degrees F, then snow all weekend. Snow on May 1st is a possibility. Worse, it wouldn't set any records; there has been recorded snowfalls on Mother's Day here. Northern Michigan just can't be beat for goofy weather. No wonder everyone is sick.

I had a productive night last night, even if it didn't end until 3 am this morning. I spent some time working on my much-neglected web site. I'm mostly working on taking things down, sorting out the garbage, and preparing for big changes. I figured once the Blogspot and Google merger shakes out and Blogspot decides what premium services they will offer, I will move the bulk of the existing site here and save myself a couple hundred dollars a year. While I was doing all that, I had a nice chat on IM with one of my teens that I hadn't talked to in a while. That kept me busy until almost 9 pm. I finished up the permission slips and such for a trip we will be taking with the youth group this weekend, then typed up the minutes from the last deacons' meeting so I'd be all ready for tonight. The agenda looks short, so with some luck, I will get home at a decent time and get some sleep. Wednesday and Thursday are the 24-hour prayer vigil we do every year for the day of prayer. I had planned on taking some of the killer times that no one signs up for (like 3 am) but I won't be able to pull that off unless I get some sleep tonight.

Other than the deacons' meeting tonight, there really isn't much else on tap for today.


Wired reports on new computer chips that use magnetism and electron spin instead of current flow. This will allow much faster chip speeds without the heat. Heat has become the bottleneck these days. Processors have to use larger, more elaborate heat sinks and fan assemblies with each bump in clock speed. Eventually, they will simply generate so much heat that they will be impractical for desktops as well as laptops. Last night I used my laptop as an actual laptop. I was certainly glad it wasn't summer. I had to constantly shift it around on my legs because it was just plain HOT. Understand that I'm using a laptop that is nearly five years old running a Pentium III at 750 MHz (actually, I think it was some odd number, but close enough that you get the idea). I can't imagine how hot the new ones with 1+ GHz Pentium IV's get. In any case, this technology is out there a ways. The first application will be memory chips (five years out) with other components to follow. Moore's Law marches on.


Noah's ark is back in the news. New satellite photos reveal a wooden structure on modern day Mount Ararat. The problem is that the "Mount Ararat" mentioned in the Bible is actually a reference to a range of mountains some distance from the current mountain bearing that name. Of course, never let facts get in the way of proving your fore-gone conclusion. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, is there; any wooden structure of significant age would be interesting from an archeological perspective. But even if it was the correct location, the idea that a wooden structure could survive intact after 4,000+ years of freezing, thawing, and being pushed around on a mountain by glaciers is a little beyond my ability to accept. Supposedly, someone will scamper up there this summer for a look-see. Prepare to be underwhelmed.


More dead U.S. soldiers, and the election is looking more and more like a referendum on the war. This year hasn't been a good one personally so far; it could turn out to be an ugly one for our nation as well.

WorldNetDaily in general is no friend of Bush, but I'm not sure what to make of this article. On the one hand, it is certainly true that the primary, east-coast news outlets never report good news from Iraq and focus exclusively on the bad. For one thing, bad news sells papers. People will grab at a headline like "5 US Soldiers Killed in Explosion" and completely ignore one like "In Kurdish Iraq, Kids Go To School." The second one just isn't compelling enough for the average person to care about. How much would you pay to read story after story of nothing out of the ordinary happening? So it's expected that bad news will always prevail. In local news, that's not a real problem. I live near Kalkaska and spend a large percentage of my time there. I've never actually witnessed a crime, a house fire, etc. I know these things happen because I read about them in the newspaper or see them on the news, but I know they don't predominate the town in the same way they predominate the news because I'm there. I'm not in Iraq, so when I see nothing but images of exploding buildings and people shooting each other, I don't have the personal perspective to counter-balance all the bad news. I therefore conclude that Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket.

Having said all that, I do believe that many of the national news figures have talked themselves into a position that reporting any good news on the WMD front will make them look stupid. And much of what makes up this article is underwhelming. A container of pesticide under a guy's sink is no threat to me or any interest I have even if it were mounted on top of the hilariously-named No Dong missile. I do think the article makes a good point; a clandestine weapons program is going to have bits and pieces scattered all over the place, not all laid out nice and neat in a big building with "WMD Factory" painted in 10-foot letters on the side. It will take time to collect all the bits and pieces, and each discovery is not going to be a big, splashy news story. Is there bias at work here? Certainly. But I think it is more of a bias towards sensationalism and ratings. Again, compare the following two headlines: "Top Bush Aid Calls President a Liar" "Three Ounces of Pesticide Found Under Man's Sink." Again, which would you pay money to read? Is there anyone with a pulse that thinks every reporter, editor, news show producer, etc. doesn't know the answer to that? Why is it so hard to believe that the bias is the result of personal self-interest (not getting fired for losing ratings points) rather than personal ideology or a mass conspiracy that involves thousands of people from dozens of countries?

Well, that's all I have time for. Later.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Tried to be sociable this weekend, but it was hard going due to being very tired as well as coming down with something. I started feeling bad things happening Friday night. I took the night off and just sat in front of the TV. It didn't help much, but I needed to be in Kalkaska by 9:30 am for practice with the trio for Sunday morning. Practice didn't go well for me because my ears were plugged up so bad I couldn't hear the music track. Add that to my unfamiliarity with singing tenor and it was pretty much a disaster. I had a few hours to kill before the world-famous Kalkaska Trout Festival Parade, so I headed for home, did some odds and ends for a couple hours, then headed back into town. I didn't really feel like finding a parking place anywhere near downtown with the duely, so I parked at the church and walked the mile or so to downtown. It was only in the 50's, and the wind was chilly, but the sun was out which is unusual in Michigan this time of year. Before the parade started, I did some meet-and-greet with some people I hadn't seen in a while before I found my family and settled in.

The parade was different this year, which caused a lot of grumbling. It seems the head of the parade committee told local businesses that if they wanted to be in the parade, they had to either enter a float or at least decorate the vehicle they entered in some way. This is one of those attempts to address a small problem with a blanket rule that creates a bigger problem. Yes, the parade was accumulating a lot of lame entries that had stretched the thing to nearly three hours; businesses driving by in the company pickup truck had become about half the parade. But making a blanket rule knocked out a lot of entries by the heavy equipment businesses that would enter their biggest crane or some giant rig for fighting forest fires. The kids love seeing that stuff drive by ten feet in front of them. It also eliminated almost all the local hot rod builders, which made it pretty uninteresting for me. One of those important lessons in unintended consequences. A more intelligent approach may have been to talk to the people who were being a problem and helping them move it up a notch rather than not allowing "undecorated" vehicles.

Anyway, after that I tagged along with my sister to the petting zoo at the fairgrounds. They had some pretty interesting critters including a large Bengal tiger that spent the entire time sleeping (of course). Love the big cats. Until you have stood within five or ten feet of one, you cannot appreciate just how big a 600 pound house cat is. We also spent some time cruising the flea market. Some of the stalls have a lot of things you just don't find at the mall. Others, I really have to wonder about. Why would I buy things like nuts and bolts at a traveling flea market when I can buy the same thing at the local hardware for half the price? A 9/16 bolt is pretty much a 9/16 bolt. And I can be pretty sure that the one I buy at the hardware isn't something that failed inspection and was sold as scrap. In any case, I didn't buy anything, just walked around until it was time to meet the rest of the family for dinner. One of the local churches was serving dinner for $7. By the time we were done there, it was after 6:00 pm, and I still had a bunch of stuff to get done for Sunday.

Sunday was Sunday. I managed not to screw up the trio too much. After Sunday morning service I went home intending to catch up on some sleep, but ended up working on stuff for a youth event next weekend and the deacons meeting Tuesday night. There wasn't choir practice, so I just drove in for evening service and hung around for the kick-off meeting of the local outreach committee. I'm not technically a member of the committee, but a lot of what we do in youth group qualifies as local outreach, so I'm there to make sure we don't get in each others way and to pick up on ideas that the youth group can take the point on. After that, I went home and just sat quietly trying to keep my head from exploding. It looks like I won't miss out on my Spring Sinus Infection this year.

Debbie is in Las Vegas until Thursday with her mom, so I'm on my own this week. It could get ugly...

It looks like I won't be reading Dave Berry anymore. The Miami Herald has decided to require readers to register for free. I'm sorry; I already get enough spam. I'm have no intention of signing up for more. I just won't read Dave Berry anymore and will remove the link to his column from here and my web site. I don't have a problem with subscription-only sites, as a rule. I subscribe to Byte.com, for example, just so I can read Jerry Pournelle's weekly column. But that is a straight up subscription of $12 a year, and I don't get spam from them. What I don't like are the "free" subscriptions that require a functioning e-mail address. These just generate address lists that are sold to spammers... er... "affiliates" who then will stuff my e-mail inbox with spam and sell my address to still other spammers. Rinse and repeat. The result is that I currently received nearly 300 e-mails a day across four e-mail addresses. No more than ten of them are anything other than promises of low-interest mortgages, cheap life insurance, and bigger breasts/penis in 30 days. And floods of offers to watch Vicki down on the farm... Pournelle and others are right: this insanity will never end until something very painful, very bloody, and very public happens to several of the top ten spammers. I have my filters set so high that e-mail I send from my work account to my home account is usually flagged as spam. Personal e-mails sent to me by friends and relatives end up lost because I don't have time to sort through several hundred offers for cheap Viagra to find them. I guess I have to bite the bullet and create an e-mail "white list" and dump everything else automatically into a special folder that auto-deletes after some reasonable period. I hate to do that; I get a lot of e-mail as a result of my web site and this blog that I enjoy reading.


Nothing really caught my eye when I browsed the net news sites I keep tabs on. Iraq is still the same. Our soldiers are being prevented by the top brass from going in and cleaning house at the sites of the uprisings and instead are "pressuring" the militia groups to surrender. Yea, sure. A guy willing to strap on a bomb belt and blow himself up in order to kill his enemies is real likely to surrender. Anyway, the steady trickle of caskets continues to come home, which neither the military or the Bush White House want you to see. I'm not sure how a picture of flag-draped coffins violates anyone's privacy. There is no way that someone can ID a dead soldier by seeing his closed coffin with a flag draped over it. Bush and Defense both know exactly what the public response will be to pictures of rows of caskets being offloaded at Dover, which is the real issue here; politics, not privacy or respect. It seems that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: W is looking more and more like a one-term president.

And I need to get back to work.

(Interestingly, I missed the space bar and Blogger's spell check suggested Whitewash in place of WhiteHouse...)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Survived another day of class. We have a new member, Catherine, in our learning team. It looks at this point like an excellent fit and it will be nice to have a balance for all the testosterone in the group. She doesn't seem the least bit phased being in a group with three guys. That was one of our initial concerns, but it proved to be unfounded. Catherine plans on being with our cohort until we are done in October and I am more than happy to have her on board.

Other than that, not much going on. Wednesday, I picked up a new battery pack at the local generator supply place. They have twice the capacity per cell in a package about two-thirds the size for one-third the price of the L-16's I bought five years ago. It seems Moore's Law doesn't just apply to computers. I picked up the rest of the pieces I needed to connect them all together today on the way to work. Guess what I will be doing tonight and tomorrow with a break for the Annual Trout Festival Parade.

Speaking of small town parades: last night in class, our teacher was talking about the town he grew up in. I forget the name, but it has around 500 residents. They have a Christmas parade every year that involves the same people on the same floats in the same order every year. Except one year, someone got out of order. Twenty years later, the town is still in an uproar over how Christmas was ruined because one guy in the parade was out of order. I told the class if anyone wanted to see sort of the same thing in action, come on up to Kalkaska for the Trout Festival Parade. My family has joked for years that it's a good thing we write the year on the back of the trout festival pictures, because there isn't much else you can look at to see which year is which. Other than the cloths the people along the parade route are wearing: that ranges from shorts, t-shirts, and sunglasses to heavy winter coats, mittens, and fur hats. This year looks to be a light jacket year with the temperature supposedly getting up above 50 degrees F. But I'm dressing in layers starting with full winter gear on the outside and beachwear on the inside. That way, I can just undress to my comfort level. This is, after all, northern Michigan.

Debbie is heading off for warmer areas tomorrow. She will be driving down to her mom's tonight, then flying out to Vegas for a week. It's some sort of perk related to her being a travel agent. Seeing as she is going with her mom, I expect Tom Jones will be getting a visit from the Boris women. Watch out, Tom!!!

Not much on tap for me tonight other than hauling several thousand pounds of batteries up the hill to the power shed and hauling several thousand pounds of batteries down from the power shed, then figuring out how to configure the whole mess into something I can run our house off from. If you don't hear from me, it's because I'm a burnt cinder in the bottom of a smoking hole. I also need to prep for my lesson on Sunday and get ready for special music with the trio I'm in. I'm trying to sing the tenor part because the bass and alto part are identical. We are lowering the song several half-steps which puts the tenor part in my natural range. That should mean that this is easy, except I haven't sang tenor since high school. It's very hard for me to "hear" the tenor part in the accompaniment after so many years. It's just a matter of finding a half-hour or so to hammer it out over and over until I can hear it, but finding a half-hour is a bit of a trick.

This is from Bob Thompson:

10:38 - Taking the dogs out has become fraught with peril, as it does every spring. This morning, I connected Duncan and Malcolm to their 15-foot roller leashes, opened the front door, and walked out onto the front porch. At that instant, Duncan spotted a lawn rat in the yard across the street, and Malcolm simultaneously spotted a tree rat in the yard next door. Both dogs accelerated, one straight ahead and one at 90 [degrees] to my left, from 0 to 30 MPH in about 0.5 seconds. Meanwhile, there I stood with both leash handles in one hand, trying to drop them, but with one leash wrapped around the other's handle.

Let me tell you, when you're on one end of the leashes, it's no joke to have a cumulative 140 pounds of dogs moving at high speed until they simultaneously run out of roller leash. In this case, my 240 pounds stood me in good stead. If it had been Barbara, she'd probably have gone airborne.

Sometimes even my mass isn't enough to prevent embarrassing moments. One winter morning, there was snow and ice on the ground. Unfortunately, a dog in 4-paw drive has much more traction than I do. As we went out the front door, Duncan spotted a rodent and instantly accelerated at full military power. Barbara wouldn't believe me later, but I'd have sworn there were afterburner flames coming out of Duncan's rear end. I couldn't drop the leash in time because it was wound around my wrist. I went flying off the porch and ended up on my ass, literally being dragged across the snow-covered front yard at a high rate of speed. Fortunately, I got the leash loose before he dragged me over the curb. That would have hurt.

The joys of living with border collies. The more I read from people who have them, the more intriguing they seem. Of course Debbie wants huskies. Reading Jerry Pournelle's descriptions of "living with a wolf," they sound like interesting house companions as well (more here both at the beginning and end of the day's post).

I've ranted before about the quackery we call psychiatry, so I'll spare everyone a repeat. It's one of those things that I have strong opinions on (I know, everyone is shocked by that admission...), but I've always had somewhere, buried under all the cynicism, the idea that for the most part, the drug companies and doctors at least had some level of integrity. This article puts that notion to rest. It seems any study that showed no positive benefit or harm from giving anti-depressants to children has been routinely suppressed. One of the more damning paragraphs from the article:

"In a global medical culture where evidence-based practice is seen as the gold standard for care, these failings are a disaster," wrote Lancet editors in an editorial accompanying the data analysis.

Whatever shred of respect I had for the medical industry and its regulators has just flown out the window.

Something any cop could tell you:

Almost all the violence and crime in the world is committed by people, mostly male, aged 15 to 29 years. You can draw a pretty accurate map of the world's trouble spots by plotting the places where there are large concentrations of young people and insufficient economic resources to give them something to do with themselves.

The recent drop in violent crimes in the U.S. has little or nothing to do with gun laws, lack of gun laws, "three strikes" laws, or any other political measure taken in the last 20 years. It's due almost entirely to demographics; demographics that are due to reverse themselves very shortly when in five years there are more teenagers in this country than in any time in history. Expect blood to literally flow in the streets in our inner-cities. Poor, rural areas could be in for a rough ride as well. Both suffer from a complete lack of anything useful for young males. Maybe the U.S. will have a draft by then so we can send large numbers of them off to be killed in places like Iraq. If you think I'm the grip of some feverish delirium, read the history of the Crusades.

Speaking of crusades to eliminate surplus males in the population, here is another letter from Iraq dated April 14, 2004:

The last two days have been very eventful. We have been going on patrols with the unit [1st Armored Division] that we are replacing and the patrols have been very productive. We have seen action almost every time that we leave our compound and a mission the first night netted two known terrorists plus a cache of weapons. We have been very busy and the operations tempo doesn't look to let up anytime soon.

The patrols also bring us in contact with the Iraqi people. Most of the area we patrol is very friendly towards us, but there are some rough spots. The city transitions from urban slum to suburban middle class to junkyard with shanties to palace like houses very quickly. Our patrols take us through huge gardens, open air markets, tenement housing, landfills and industrial centers. It is very strange. The children run to the sounds of our vehicles and anytime we stop and dismount we are surrounded by cautious but very inquisitive crowds. They understand that we mean business, but they also are not too afraid to have fun at our expense. One boy stuck his hand out to my squad leader in a gesture of friendship only to pull it back and run it through his hair when SSG [staff sergant--name withheld] reached to shake it. The crowd and the soldiers all laughed together at that one. The adults range from happiness to indifferent to contempt. The women usually the first two.

The young men, like I mentioned before are the ones we watch out for. The city is in pretty bad repair throughout, but many people appear to be overweight which leads me to believe that living conditions cannot be too bad for everyone.

The call to prayer is rarely heard in Baghdad though it seems nonstop in the outskirts where we live. As for what you can send me: I need a nice brush like a paint brush or shaving brush to clean my weapons with. The sand gets everywhere. Any kind of beverage powder or something to flavor water with would be great. Baby wipes are always nice and magazines to read. Other than those things, I am not wanting for much. I'm sure a list will develop after I really see what we have around here.

And so we muddle on.

There is global warming on Jupiter that is endangering the Great Red Spot!! Call your congressman at once and demand that SUV's be legislated off the roads before our over-consumption destroys one of the most recognizable features of the solar system!!

Research continues to push the date of the earliest replicators further and further into the past. The vast, global conspiracy to convince everyone that the earth is really 4.6 billion years old continues on.

And I really need to get to work. I have a fairly difficult piece of code to write today, so I've been doing this while I sort out what approach I'm going to take. I think I have it now, so I have to go type like mad before I lose it.

And Blogger is trying to drive me mad. The spell check is replacing the wrong characters; instead of fixing things, it is making a hash of my post. Ah well, I'm sure it will be fixed soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Another late night last night. Early morning actually. I was up late Sunday, which meant I got to work later than normal, which caused a late start on Monday's refrigerator saga, which meant another late bedtime, which meant I got to work later than normal yesterday, which meant I had less time to cram the stuff I wanted to get done Monday into Tuesday, plus the stuff I had planned for Tuesday, which meant I got to bed at 1:30 am again last night. Well, this morning. Whatever. I have to leave work at 4 pm today no matter how few hours that gives me, so I guess I will have to make the time up some other day. And I will not be staying late after youth group tonight. I need some sleep so I can stay awake in college tomorrow.

In any case, I was able to get a fairly large load of rocks from my parents place yesterday. Another 20 loads or so that size and I should have enough to at least start some landscaping. The rest of the "evening" was getting music and a lesson together for tonight.

Today I pick up my new pack of batteries for the power shed. I'd like to have everything hooked up this weekend, but I'm not sure that's going to happen with Saturday being the Trout Festival. My parents are in the parade this year, so for some odd reason, they expect me to be there. Go figure. In any case, work, picking up batteries and youth group will pretty much make it a day.

The talkorigins archive recently put up the Post of the Month for March. The first post was from a Jehovah's Witness that is in a dilemma similar to mine. I sent him the following e-mail yesterday:

Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, have talkorigins to thank for opening my eyes. I've been in GARBC Baptist churches all of my life and was taught the standard YEC line. I went to a Christian school as well, so I was never confronted with the other side of the story. In college, I took physics for my lab science, mainly because it was taught by a Christian professor. In short, I had been fed one view my entire life. About five years ago, I found talkorigins and started reading the FAQ's as the result of a challenge by a fellow list-member to the Christlib (Christian Libertarian) mailing list. The first thing that had to go was the young earth. That wasn't too earth-shattering (no pun intended...), and I already knew that JW's and several others held to the old earth.

Then I got into the flood FAQ's, and I was in deep trouble. Nothing added up and no amount of squinting at Genesis could reconcile the "infallible" scripture's flood story with geology. I had to make a choice of either "trusting" God or following the evidence. I, too, am reasonably intelligent (high 130's) so the former was simply not an option. I had to follow the evidence no matter where it took me. I thought I didn't like biology, but I gritted my teeth and dug into the micro-biology FAQ's and found that what I didn't like was the carefully sanitized biology of my Christian high school. Biology without evolution is like physics without quantum mechanics: a bunch of seemingly unrelated bits that don't have a lot to do with each other.

So here is where I am right now:
Ancient universe and earth
No world-wide flood
All living things are the result of common decent with modification

Parts I'm still struggling with:
God's role in bringing humanity about
What is the human soul and with that our eternal destiny?
My approach to the Bible

My situation is a bit precarious at the moment. I am a deacon in my church and don't believe what the church teaches (YEC is written right into the constitution, and I cannot technically even be a member of the church if I disagree with the constitution). I also teach Jr. High and Sr. High Bible study on Sunday morning and I'm the head of the youth ministries. It's those last two that are really tearing me up right now. I listen to these kids repeating the crap they have learned from AiG and Hovind and the rest and I want to tell them the truth. I've tried a number of times to show them some of the silliest parts in the hope that they will begin digging on their own. But many of them are home schooled and all access to information is carefully screened by their parents. The others already have tons of homework and other, more interesting, things going on, and I can't flunk them so they never get around to checking out anything I give them.

If I hadn't become involved in youth ministry, I would have just written a letter a couple years ago to the church explaining why I couldn't be a member any longer and let things fall where they may. But these are my kids, and I can't just walk away. My wife and I have no children of our own; these teens are all we have. Giving that up would shred both of us emotionally. So here I sit on a knife edge and wonder what is next. But I do know this: I *will* follow the evidence, no matter the cost. I can't believe in a God that would have me do anything else.

My prayers are with you in your journey and for the day that the Body of Christ can be united once again.

This is only one of several similar letters sent to talkorigins over the years from Catholics and Protestants of every stripe. We should start a support group for recovering YEC's. Come up with a twelve-step program and we could get paid by our health insurance plans...

Anyway, it's probably not smart posting that here, but who said I was smart?


Fred Reed has a great piece on the fate of the print news media in the age of blogging.

The FBI issued its final report on Harris and Klebold. Disturbing, to say the least. What does a society do with true psychopaths? Harris, according to the psychiatric profession, could not be fixed by any technique or drug. If this is true, and that is a big if given the "science" of psychiatry, what do we do with them? Lock them in a cell for the rest of their life? Execute them? It doesn't take much imagination to see the potential for abuse in either of those courses of action. In fact it takes no imagination at all, just a knowledge of the past abuses against women, who became inconvenient to their husbands, by the very same psychiatric profession that today condemns Harris as "irretrievable." Something else we should be thinking hard about but aren't.

Well, back to the grind.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Winter is back. Well, not quite winter, but close. It's supposed to be in the low 30's at night and only getting up in the 40's during the day for the next week or so. Perfect Michigan weather. Oh, and it's supposed to rain pretty much every day.

Last night sure didn't go as I planned. I got a call from my mom asking if I could help take a refrigerator up to the family farm. No problem. I've owned a truck for over ten years and you just get used to calls like this. The part that I either wasn't told or didn't understand was that the refrigerator in question was an hour and a half drive north of where we live. After all was said and done, I fell into bed at 1:30 this morning and hadn't gotten anything done that I expected.


It looks like we will finally see the end of SCO. Couldn't happen to nicer people.

Not much else. My brain is mush from lack of sleep. I might post later if I can think of something profound to say.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Another busy weekend. Saturday, I had to be up early so I could hit the electrical place for some power shed parts, plus practice with the trio I'm in for a couple Sunday's out, and practice with the praise team for Sunday. I spent the rest of the day removing the millions of ladybugs infesting our house, cleaning up some rooms, and making messes in other rooms unpacking boxes. We continue to find things we didn't know we even owned. It's like the biggest Christmas ever as we paw through boxes. Because the house is only about one third built, we are re-packing a lot of things, but it's a lot less compared to what we are getting out to use, and what we are simply throwing away. A lot of the things we kept in the past don't make a lot of sense at this point, so if it's something someone may use, it goes into a garage sale pile, the rest goes in trash bags. I get all warm and tingly when I get to throw out a lot of old stuff. It's a guy thing.

Sunday was full with teaching, Sunday morning, birthday party for my niece (Sweet 16, Courtney!!!), the kick-off for the Financial Peace University, choir practice, evening service, then Dairy Queen and a movie (Jonah) with my parents. We fell into bed around midnight.

The weather has been unreal. Saturday was near 70 degrees F all day. Sunday started out in the 60's, then got up to 78 degrees F by evening with lots of wind. I've heard rumors of gusts hitting 90 mph. It was gusting hard enough to rattle doors and windows most of the night. In typical Michigan fashion, it is supposed to get down to the low 30's tonight. If it does, that will be a 45-degree swing in 36 hours. Unfortunately, that isn't all that unusual for Michigan in April.

On tap for today: after work, I'll be stopping by the dry cleaners to pick up a load of clothes there, then home to gas up the generator, get it running, get the furnace on before it gets too cold, change into work clothes, and head over to my parents house to pick up a truck load of stones. They have the foundation of the original house and barn in the front of their place and they want to clean things up. In addition to the foundations and loose stones everywhere, there is a lot of barb wire and other bits of rusted iron hiding in the grass that tends to trip up people. We need to work fast because it all disappears under chest-high grass in a month or so. We will use the stone to do landscaping around our place. I also have a lot of reading to get done for class on Thursday, just in case I have any extra time tonight.


Vox Day had a good column about what men really want. Any women really interested in understanding the men in their lives (as opposed into turning them into an ornamental flowering fruit basket) could do worse than reading this.

Iraq: The Bushies keep telling us how great everything is, the anti-Bushies keep telling us the place is going to hell in a handbasket. The reports from the ground are all over the map. I'm assuming that, like any war, there are places of calm, places of chaos, places of rebellion, places of cooperation. What I don't see is any coherent plan to turn Iraq into a peace-loving democracy by June. The Russians have been working at it for over a decade and it still doesn't look very democratic from here. Few former Soviet republics are doing any better and many far worse. And none of those were the result of foreign conquest. If we intend to see this through, it will take much longer than 60 days and much more than the 100's of billions of dollars we have already burned in the Iraqi desert. In any case, for better or worse, I see the November elections as shaping up as a referendum on the Iraq war. That is assuming Kerry has an IQ over 60, which isn't a certain thing. He is, after all, a politician. The last time the presidential race turned into a referendum on an ongoing war, we ended up with Tricky Dick as president. Maybe I'm pessimistic, but I don't think the outcome of this election will turn out any better.

Back to work.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Yesterday was the first day of a new class. We had the instructor in a previous class that really kicked everyone's butt because of the work load, so everyone was a little afraid of what this class would have in store for us. We were pleasantly surprised that the work load doesn't look too bad (only three papers and one 20-minute presentation). And everyone loves this guy as an instructor. He has so much good, useful, relevant, information to share. Understand that other than the occasional scribble, no one really takes any notes in these classes. You demonstrate your understanding through papers and presentations, not tests and quizzes, so note-taking doesn't really play much of a role. But in this guys classes, we all burn through pens and notebooks trying to keep everything he says for later use. He is really good. So the next five weeks will find me moderately busy, and very happy. This is what I went back to school for.

The weather is gradually moving to summer. Most of the snow is gone other than the odd pile under a pine tree or on the north slope of a hill. We haven't had much rain lately, but it is supposed to rain most of the next few days. That should finish off whatever snow the sun can't get to. Today, I shut down the boiler and left the generator off after I left the house for work. That will be a major savings for us. The new batteries for the power shed will be available Tuesday, so that will further reduce our generator dependence. My dad wants to putter around the house one or two days a week, so I think I'm going to have him building the racks for the solar panels, which will cut the generator usage even more. After some really long months, things could be coming together for us at long last.

Nothing much going tonight. We need to do some birthday shopping for my niece, so we are meeting in the mall for that and dinner in the food court. Other than that, we will be doing some serious vegetation and an early bedtime.

Bob Thompson posted this yesterday:

Subject: Retrosexuals
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 11:55:07 -0400
From: Bob Sprowl

Please allow me to vent. I have had it. I've taken all I can stand and I can't stand no more. Every time my TV is on, all that can be seen is effeminate men prancing about, redecorating houses and talking about foreign concepts like "style" and "feng shui." Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, metrosexual, non-sexual; blue, green, and purple-sexual - bogus definitions have taken over the urban and suburban world!

Real men of the world, stand up, scratch your butt, belch, and yell "ENOUGH!" I hereby announce the start of a new offensive in the culture Wars, the Retrosexual movement. "

The Code :

A Retrosexual man, no matter what the women insists, PAYS FOR THE DATE.

A Retrosexual man opens doors for a lady. Even for the ones that fit that term only because they are female.

A Retrosexual DEALS with IT, be it a flat tire, break-in into your home, or a natural disaster, you DEAL WITH IT.

A Retrosexual not only eats red meat, he often kills it himself.

A Retrosexual doesn't worry about living to be 90. It's not how long you live, but how well. If you're 90 years old and still smoking cigars and drinking, I salute you. If you are still having sex, you are a God.

A Retrosexual does not use more hair or skin products than a woman. Women have several supermarket aisles of stuff. Retrosexuals need an aisle endcap (possibly 2 endcaps if you include shaving goods.)

A Retrosexual does not dress in clothes from Hot Topic when he's 30 years old.

A Retrosexual should know how to properly kill stuff (or people) if need be. This falls under the "Dealing with IT" portion of The Code.

A Retrosexual watches no TV show with "Queer" in the title.

A Retrosexual does not let neighbors screw up rooms in his house on national TV.

A Retrosexual should not give up excessive amounts of manliness for women. Some is inevitable, but major reinvention of yourself will only lead to you becoming a froo-froo little puss, and in the long run, she ain't worth it.

A Retrosexual is allowed to seek professional help for major mental stress such as drug/alcohol addiction, death of your entire family in a freak treechipper accident, favorite sports team being moved to a different city, favorite bird dog expiring, etc. You are NOT allowed to see a shrink because Daddy didn't pay you enough attention. Daddy was busy DEALING WITH IT. When you screwed up, he DEALT with you.

A Retrosexual will have at least one outfit in his wardrobe designed to conceal himself from prey.

A Retrosexual knows how to tie his tie but doesn't really like to wear one.

A Retrosexual should have at least one good wound he can brag about getting.

A Retrosexual knows how to use a basic set of tools. If you can't hammer a nail, or drill a straight hole, practice in secret until you can -- or be rightfully ridiculed for the wuss you be.

A Retrosexual knows that owning a gun is not a sign that your are riddled with fear, guns are TOOLS and are often essential to DEAL WITH IT. Plus it's just plain fun to fire one off in the direction of those people or things that just need a little "wakin' up".

Crying. There are very few reason that a Retrosexual may cry, and none of them have to do with TV commercials, movies, or soap operas. Sports teams are sometimes a reason to cry, but the preferred method of release is swearing or throwing the remote control. Some reasons a Retrosexual can cry include (but are not limited to) death of a loved one, death of a pet (fish do NOT count as pets in this case), loss of a major body part, or loss of major body part on your Ford truck.

When a Retrosexual is on a crowded bus and or a commuter train, and a pregnant woman, heck, any woman gets on, that retrosexual stands up and offers his seat to that woman, then looks around at the other so-called men still in their seats with a disgusted "you punks" look on his face.

A Retrosexual knows how to say the Pledge properly, and with the correct emphasis and pronunciation. He also knows the words to the Star Spangled Banner

A Retrosexual will have hobbies and habits his wife and mother do not understand, but that are essential to his manliness, in that they offset the acceptable manliness decline he suffers when married/engaged or in a serious healthy relationship - i.e., hunting, boxing, shot putting, shooting, cigars, car maintenance.

A Retrosexual knows how to sharpen his own knives and kitchen utensils.

A Retrosexual man can drive in snow (hell, a blizzard) without sliding all over or driving under 20mph, without anxiety, and without high-centering his ride in a snow bank.

A Retrosexual man can chop down a tree and make it land where he wants. Wherever it lands is where he damn well wanted it to land. Except on his truck--that would happen because of a "force of nature", and then the retrosexual man's options are to Cry, or to DEAL with IT, or do both.

A Retrosexual will thank any person in military uniform for serving their country that they encounter.

A Retrosexual man doesn't need a contract -- a handshake is good enough. He will always stand by his word even if circumstances change or the other person deceived him.

A Retrosexual man knows that if he hasn't been hurt doing something lately then he hasn't been doing enough and its time to get off his ass and get to work.

A Retrosexual man doesn't immediately look to sue someone when he does something stupid and hurts himself. We understand that sometimes in the process of doing things we get hurt and we just DEAL WITH IT!


Jerry Pournelle has once again hit the nail on the head in regards to Iraq. Twice. As he says; Bush seems determined to take liberty to Iraq on the points of our bayonets, but is his determination enough?

A note from Bob Thompson's site on a small terror attack in North Carolina:

We had an Islamic terror attack in North Carolina yesterday, although I doubt it'll make the national news or be described as such. It happened in Fayetteville. Abdullah el-Amin Shareef stole a vehicle and went on a two-hour hit-and-run spree, searching out pedestrians to run down. Before he was stopped and captured, he made at least five hit-and-run assaults. Witnesses said he left the major highways in search of victims, driving down back roads and residential streets looking for people to run over. He killed one man. Another is in critical condition. Unfortunately, the cops took Shareef alive. It's too bad an armed civilian didn't put down this bastard before he was able to hurt those innocent people.

I would expect to see more of this. Individuals and small groups working to create a constant trickle of casualties. One effect will likely be more sympathy for Israel whose citizens deal with this sort of thing every day.

There seems to be some restlessness within the National Guard troops that seem to be on indefinite deployment despite promises to the contrary. This has been seen spray-painted on Guard barracks all over Iraq:

One week a month my ass!

Nice. "Beware the fury of the Legions." Our leaders seem to know nothing of history. It will be their (and likely, our) undoing.

The Nielson rating folks have new electronic boxes that measure what people actually watch instead of what people say they watch on the old, written Nielson diaries. Horror of horrors, few seem to be watching shows that feature blacks, so 1) the set-top boxes are racist and only report "white" TV shows to Nielson headquarters or 2) a different way of measuring must be found to make sure minorities are getting enough attention directed exclusively at them:

The drop has riled everyone from network executives to community activists. For black, Hispanic and Asian viewers, switching to the new system could mean less money for programming and advertising directed at them.

"A drop in ratings translates to a drop in advertising, which translates to a drop in programming, which translates to a drop in opportunities for the black community," said Paul Williams, president of 100 Black Men of New York, one of the organizations that has called on Nielsen to review its local people meter technology.

Maybe the problem is that every show that "features" blacks and Hispanics is just plain stupid. We don't watch much TV and when we do, it tends to be "white" shows that star people (white, black and Hispanic) who can speak Standard English instead of Ebonics or Taco Bell Chihuahua. Instead of criticizing Nielson for not recording what isn't happening, minority "leaders" and TV executives could take this as an indication that blacks and Hispanics prefer to see themselves portrayed as educated, intelligent, functioning members of society instead of ghetto-ized retards. But what do I know; I'm white and thus have no understanding of the "black experience."


The first signs of civilization now date back 75,000 years. But wait! God created the earth in late October, 4004 BC! Oops.

A good article on E-Bay as modern bazaar and the impact that has on home-grown scientific interest in the young (and not so young).

And time to get to work.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Long night last night doing taxes. I bought H&R Block's TaxCut Deluxe Edition. The initial cost is around $50 plus $14.95 to e-file the federal return and $12.95 to e-file the state return. That is about the same cost of using the new web version of Turbo Tax, but I can do my parents and other relatives for no additional cost. Secondly, TaxCut has a full rebate on the state tax software ($24.99), a rebate on the federal tax software ($5), and a rebate on the federal e-file ($14.95). So the bottom line cost will less than $40 to do at least three people's taxes and maybe more. The software seems to work pretty well, although it does have some strange little glitches. None of them were fatal, but the screen does some strange things at certain points. All in all, I think I have a new tax preparation program. It even reads in last year's Turbo Tax data so I don't have to retype everything. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative than the new Turbo Tax rip-off, you could do worse than look at TaxCut.

Taxes consumed my entire evening, so I still have no homework done and I'll be winging it big time tonight in youth group.


Lots of interesting articles on Wired News to take your mind off of Iraq:

Diesels are back in style. Europe has been doing this for years, but the U.S. has been a little slow to catch on. Replacing a gasoline engine with an equivalent diesel immediately improves fuel economy by 25-40% and reduces CO2. Particulates and NOx goes up, so it isn't a perfect solution, but I'm betting that if diesels become popular, solutions will be found for those as well.

People continue to take stories from The Onion as real. This should have been expected when getting on the Internet became something that people on the left side of the IQ bell curve could do.

FDA has given the green light for clinical trials of a brain implant that allows a person to control a computer with their thoughts. It's all to help disabled people, you see. Yea, right; hard-core gamers will be screaming for these things. After we work all the kinks out on the handicapped, of course. When they figure out how to use a chip to stimulate the visual center of the brain so it becomes a two-way interface, then things will get really interesting.

This article needs some thinking about. My personal opinion is that chat rooms are like conversations in any public space. I can record two people talking on the street without their consent. Same thing here. The problem is that technology moves so fast that laws written as little as 2 or 3 years ago have serious unintended consequences.

The next thing after silicon-based computing? Thinking about a computer that uses quantum mechanics is the fast path to making your brain hurt, but if the technical details could be worked out, it will make the advent of integrated circuits look like small potatoes.

Another The Office of the Future-type article. Some of this stuff has been five years away for the entire 20 years I've been working in offices. Still, some of it will show up.

Well, that ought to keep everyone busy. Gotta go.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Last night certainly didn't go as planned. I got a phone call from my pastor's wife that she had found a couple Easter baskets on clearance that were too big to fit in her minivan and could I pick them up? Sure, says I. I got to Meijer's after work to pick them up and my first response was, "You've got to be kidding." I know people with apartments that are smaller than these baskets. She also needed more of the plastic Easter eggs because she could only fit 2,600 or so of them in her shopping cart without losing them all over the floor. So I picked up another 400 to make it an even 3,000. All this is for an event we've started planning for next Easter. I'm sure I caused a couple accidents on the way to Kalkaska. It isn't every day you see a Chevy 3500 duelly with two giant Easter baskets in the back. I almost bought a pair of bunny ears to wear while I was driving, but I thought that would be too much.

Anyway, I took care of all that, stopped at the dry cleaners and the recycle place to get rid of about 100 pounds of cardboard from all the cabinets and such. I found my niece's makeup under the seat while fishing out runaway cardboard so I dropped that off while I was in Kalkaska. When I got home my parents were there, so we stood around and gabbed until 10pm. I ate something and vegged in front of the TV for a bit then went to bed. I was supposed to get homework done and get our taxes squared away, but that didn't happen. I'll try again tonight, but it doesn't look promising.

The only news I could find worth noting was all from Iraq and all bad. I looks as if we really stuck our foot in it this time.

While looking for alternatives to Turbo Tax I came across a page on the IRS website that claims to link to companies that offer free tax preparation. This has all the hallmarks of a scam to me. While I was dropping things at my sister's place last night, my niece asked if I could help her with her taxes. I figured I'd give these free sites a try. First, many of them simply don't work. I didn't waste my time figuring out why, but many of them seem to be broken in ways that prevents the site from being usable. Of course, the 16 pop up ads work flawlessly. I got one that worked and started in. It was all pretty painless until it came time to file the return. First there was a $5.95 charge to do the state return. That didn't seem to bad. Then there was the $12.00 processing fee to pay the $5.95 for the state return. I was beginning to smell a rat. Then finally came the $28 fee to have the refund mailed out. Understand, her refund was only $97 to begin with. As if all that isn't bad enough, most of these sites restrict the "free" filing to people with under $20,000 AGI, meaning they are charging these incredibly high fees to teenagers like my niece, the elderly, and the poor. These people should be drawn and quartered. The worse part is that the IRS is complicit in this or blissfully ignorant. One is as bad as the other.

So today I'll be stopping by Office Max on the way home and see what they have in the way of tax prep software. And just in case, I'm downloading all the forms and instructions from the IRS web site in case I end up doing everything by hand.

This is going to be a long week.

I've added a few blogs that I've stumbled across to the list of links on the right. They are just random blogs that I picked up from Blogger's latest updated list. I may or may not keep them depending on if they are kept current by their owners, etc. But for now I find them interesting even if I don't necessarily agree with them.


I did find one article of note a few days ago about a 15-year-old girl being charged under child pornography laws for posting nude photos of herself on the Internet. Now, we need to think hard about this: Janet Jackson is paid millions to show her bare breast during the Superbowl half-time show. Courtney Love shows her breasts on David Letterman to the wild applause of the audience and David Letterman's heart-felt "Thank you!" MTV is non-stop near-nude females. But we are going to charge a 15-year-old with possession of child porn for taking pictures of herself nude. Folks, I don't know how to say this any more plainly: one or the other. Either we are going to be prudes or we are going to be sex-crazed maniacs. We wonder why 25% of our teenagers are in some form of psychiatric care. Maybe if we didn't bombard them with non-stop contradictions, they would have half a chance to be normal.

"Dress like a slut, but don't have sex."

"Don't do drugs because they will mess up your brain. Now shut up and take your Ritalin so I can drink my beer in peace."

"Don't even think about smoking those cigarettes that are prominently displayed at the counter of every convenience store, drug store, gas station, etc.; as well as being relentlessly advertised on billboards and in magazines."

"Why is this generation so screwed up? I just can't figure it out."

Monday, April 12, 2004

Crazy busy weekend. Saturday, I had practice with a trio I'm in for special music in a couple Sunday's, then practice with the praise team for Sunday, then hit the road for the three-hour drive to Flint for my Grandpa's 91st birthday. I got back home around midnight. Then Sunday being Easter we had early service, breakfast, Bible study, and morning service. My parents just got back from Florida, so they had no food in their house, and neither my sister nor us ever have anything but chips and frozen pizzas, so we headed to Traverse City on a quest for an open restaurant. Cracker Barrel was open, which isn't my favorite, but better than frozen pizza for Easter dinner. After all that, we had about an hour to chill, then back at church for evening service. At least we didn't have anything planned for after church. We went home and vegged out in front of the TV until bedtime.

Not much on tap for tonight other than I need to go to Meijer's and pick up two giant Easter baskets for our pastor's wife and grab a couple small things for myself. I also need to stop at the recycle place; there is barely room in the truck for me with all the cardboard. We are finally getting rid of all the cartons from the cabinets and all that.

I also need to get started on taxes, but I don't know if I'm going to use Turbo Tax this year or not. In the past, I would buy a copy and do our taxes, my parent's taxes, my sister's, etc. Existing customers could get the software for $50. The new way is it's all web-based and you have to pay $70 for each return. Even though I've never used anything other than Turbo Tax, I'm looking for some alternative. I may just download the forms and do it by hand. Intuit is simply ripping people off. I hope they make a lot of money the last year they will be in business. I can't believe anyone will pay that kind of money and not even have a copy of the software or the data file to show for it. I know I won't.

And of course, there's always a bunch of reading for class on Thursday.


Jerry Pournelle has a good piece; Republic, Empire, Iraq, and Democracy, that pretty well sums up where we are, what we should do, and what we most likely will do. It's a pretty bleak way to start out the week, but the U.S. seems to be accelerating down a path that, historically, has always ended badly. No one seems to be aware of that, which is not surprising given our current educational system.

And here is how Iraq looks from the ground:

From the USMC grapevine:

Update from LtCol K

...the last two days have been the hardest two days this battalion has faced in over 30 years. Within the blink of an eye the situation went form relatively calm to a raging storm. You've known that since arriving there has been violence; attacks have been sporadic and mostly limited to roadside bombs. Your husbands have become experts at recognizing those threats and neutralizing them before we are injured. Up to this point the war has been the purview of corporals and sergeants, and the squad they lead.

Yesterday the enemy upped the ante.

Early in the morning we exchanged gunfire with a group of insurgents without significant loss. As morning progressed, the enemy fed more men into the fight and we responded with stronger force. Unfortunately, this led to injuries as our Marines and sailors started clearing the city block by block. The enemy did not run; they fought us like soldiers. And we destroyed the enemy like only Marines can. By the end of the evening the local hospital was so full of their dead and wounded that they ran out of space to put them. Your husbands were awesome all night they stayed at the job of securing the streets and nobody challenged them as the hours wore on. They did not surrender an inch nor did flinch from the next potential threat. Previous to yesterday the terrorist thought that we were soft enough to challenge. As of tonight the message is loud and clear that the Marines will not be beaten.

Today the enemy started all over again, although with far fewer numbers, only now the rest of the battalion joined the fight. Without elaborating too much, weapons company and Golf crushed their attackers with the vengeance of the righteous. They filled up the hospitals again and we suffered only a few injuries. Echo company dominated the previous day's battlefield. Fox company patrolled with confidence and authority; nobody challenged them. Even Headquarters Company manned their stations and counted far fewer people openly watching us with disdain. If the enemy is foolish enough to try to take your men again they will not survive contact. We are here to win.

The news looks grim from back in the States. We did take losses that, in our hearts, we will always live with. The men we lost were taken within the very opening minutes of the violence. They could not have foreseen the treachery of the enemy and they did not suffer. We can never replace these Marines and Sailors but they will fight on with us in spirit. We are not feeling sorry for ourselves nor do we fear what tomorrow will bring. The battalion has lived up to its reputation as Magnificent Bastards.

Yesterday made everyone here stronger and wiser; it will be a cold day in Hell before we are taken for granted again.

And a less rosy picture from DEBKAfile. I have no idea which of these are credible.

Lunch is over; back to work.

Friday, April 09, 2004

I didn't have college yesterday, so I had a day to catch up on some things that have been hanging around half-done: cleaning, organizing, finding places for everything that's just lying about, etc.

Spring is officially here in the Frost household. I switched the snow tires on the truck for the regular ones and removed the 1,500 pounds of ballast from the bed of the truck. I do need to put the plow on the truck one last time for a good wash at the spray bay and to take it over to the garage that sold it to me for some checking out and tuning up. This was a tough year for my poor plow with all the snow. I'm sure the check valves need to be replaced and the cutting blade certainly needs to be. The corners have been completely rounded off and it has several good-sized chunks missing from plowing our dirt road.

I took advantage of not having class yesterday to get a good solid start on homework for next week. My goal is to complete at least most if not all of the reading assignments for the entire 5 weeks so I can concentrate on the three papers I have to write (philosophy of leadership paper, reflective journal on each class session, paper and presentation on a leadership topic to be determined by our PLT). Unlike the last three classes, I'm looking forward to the next five weeks.

I've started getting several e-mails a day from my ISP that my web site is using over 90% of the 20MB that I am allowed. Understand that when I signed up, there were no space limitations. I specifically asked that question and the only restrictions were no warz and no porn. Otherwise, there were no restrictions on space or on bandwidth usage. I have received no notification that this has changed in any way. In addition, I resent being bombarded on several different e-mail accounts with a message every few hours stating I am over my limit. Understand, I haven't updated the site in several weeks. Ah well, as a cost saving measure, I will likely take down that site anyway. I'll keep the domain rdfrost.com for now and may even try to find an e-mail provider so we can keep our ric at rdfrost dot com and debbie at rdfrost dot com addresses without paying for them through my ISP. I think Yahoo allows that sort of thing. I should look into it. I need to de-couple my e-mail accounts and web site from my ISP. I don't like having everything tied to one company.


This article talks about something I've noticed since going back to school. A lot of textbooks are going for flashy illustrations that have little or nothing to do with the text, bundled CD's that I've yet to use, and the use of cartoons and other licensed material that, again, seems to have little use other than eye candy. All this adds to the price of the book for no reason other than publisher greed. So what's new.

Jerry Pournelle and Joel Rosenberg had a good exchange on what is next in Iraq. Jerry used to have access to the highest levels in DC, but that was several presidents ago in another country. I doubt our current rulers are listening.


The root cause of the massive black-out last year was a bug in the code that controls the alarms for one of the control systems. There were other reasons for the failure, but this is root cause of the black-out. The code was written in C and C++, two languages that have no business being in use today. The article doesn't come out and say that, but the bottom line is that this sort of error is inexcusable in the 21st century. There are languages, techniques, and processes that have been known and taught for 20 years that could have prevented this, but no one uses them. Programmers prefer to think of themselves as artists (or artistes) instead of engineers, valuing clever hacks over readable, comprehensible, maintainable code. This one bug has been found and squashed. It took weeks for an entire division of one of the largest companies in the country to find it. I'm sure it's the only bug in this particular system. And I'm going to really enjoy talking to the Easter Bunny on Sunday over a breakfast of chocolate and grapefruit juice.

And I should get to work.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Last night was uneventful: just work, then getting ready for youth group tonight. Not much exciting on tap for today; just work and youth group. At least I don't have to worry about school tomorrow. I'll be gone all day Saturday, so I can use Thursday to do a lot of the stuff I usually do on Saturday.


Looks like my prediction last week about Fallujah was wrong; it is now an occupied city. I'm sure we will get beat up pretty badly due to the deaths of "innocent" civilians. My faith in our military leadership has been partially and conditionally restored. We'll see what finally shakes out of this.

I also predicted a couple weeks ago that the Spain bombing was just the beginning. I would have liked to have been wrong, but it doesn't sound like it. At least alertness and police work have kept deaths and injuries to a bare minimum. However, the longer this goes on, the better the bombers will get at hiding themselves and their bombs, and, like the U.S. learned on 9/11, it doesn't matter how many hundreds of attacks you prevent; everyone remembers the one that got through.


This article gives a good summary of some of the recent data from various Mars orbiters and probes, and where we go from here.

And a little something for those that think life was simpler a hundred years ago:

Total U.S. population in 1900 was 76 million people, less than a third the population we have now. Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California; with a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union. (The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.) The American flag had 45 stars; Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

Life expectancy at birth was 47 years, and the infant mortality rate is high: 140 of every 1000 babies born will die in their first year (these days, fewer than 10 in 1000 die) Yet more than 95% of all live births in the US took place at home.

Flu, pneumonia, typhoid, gastritis, and whooping cough were common causes of death. The five leading causes of death in the US were: 1.) Pneumonia & Influenza 2.) Tuberculosis 3.) Diarrhea 4.) Heart disease and 5.) Stroke

90% of all US physicians had NO college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."

The dollar was a defined (not floating) unit of currency; there was NO income tax; there was NO central bank (i.e., Federal Reserve). But the United States was a rising economic powerhouse and was the wealthiest economy in the world: per capita income was on the same level as Britain and Australia, was twice that of France and Germany, and was quadruple the standard of living in Japan and Mexico.

Still, most Americans in 1904 were living in what we today would consider poverty. Per capita American income in 1904 averaged around $5000 [in present-day dollars], less than one-fifth the current level. In other words, the typical American in 1904 had about the same income as a typical Mexican today. The average wage in the US was $0.22/hour; the average US worker made between $200-$400/year; A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000/year, a dentist $2,500/year, a veterinarian between $1,500-$4,000/year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000/year. Sugar cost $0.04/pound. Eggs were $0.14/dozen. Coffee cost $0.15/pound.

A man's typical on-the-job work week consisted of 60 hours of work, spread over six days. Pensions were rare; men generally worked until they were too feeble to go on doing so. Two-thirds of men over 65 still worked full-time jobs. Women made up only 18% of the paid work force. They mainly worked in textiles, apparel, shoes, canning - fields where you were paid according to how much you produced.

At home, women spent an average of 40 hours a week on meal preparation and meal cleanup, seven hours on laundry, and another seven hours on housecleaning. The average housewife baked a half a ton of bread-about 1400 loaves-per year. 18% of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic.

Only about a third of American homes had running water, only 15% had flush toilets, only 14% of the homes in the US had a bathtub, and half of farm households didn't even have an outhouse. Most women washed their hair only once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Only 3% of American homes were lit by electricity; only 8% of the homes had a telephone (a three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.00) 50% of all people’s living spaces averaged more than one person per room; taking in lodgers was common.

Most people lived within a mile of where they worked, and depended on their feet to get them around; only 20% of urban households owned a horse. There were only 8,000 automobiles in the US, and only 144 miles of paved roads; the maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

Coca Cola contained cocaine; marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."

Half the population drank alcohol; half didn’t. The half that did drink averaged two hard drinks and two beers per day; wine consumption was minimal. By contrast, in Europe, people drank twice as much beer, and averaged more than four glasses of wine a day.

[Only] 10% of the American population was completely illiterate, and the average adult had an 8th grade education; only 7% of students would ever complete high school.

[compiled from http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=41362 and http://www.teach12.com/ttc/assets/coursedescriptions/529.asp]

And that's pretty much a wrap.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

This was in our monthly IS newsletter:

Only in America...can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

Only in America...are there handicap-parking places in front of a skating rink.

Only in America...do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while the cigarettes are at the front counter.

Only in America...do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries... and a diet coke.

Only in America...do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.

Only in America...do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.

Only in America...do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.

Only in America...do we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well: 'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures'.

Only in America...do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.

I noticed things were getting too serious on this blog, so now there is some humor.
Yesterday, it was work, then home to move around furniture in the basement, wash dishes, paw around in boxes to find my ice tea maker (Yes!!), and just generally muck about. The weather continues to be cold and windy. Today started with rain, freezing rain, and snow. I'm tired of being cold and wet.


Here is an article, written by a black man, about racial politics. It is interesting, especially the conclusion. Blacks in the U.S. are not a separate nation, and it is high time that both blacks and whites stop thinking in those terms.


Yesterday, I posted a rant against psychiatry. Here is an article published in Reason magazine, written by someone who struggles with depression. Read the entire article. It is long and covers a lot of ground, but everyone needs to think hard about what she says before committing themselves or (more likely) their children to the "care" of the mental health industry.

I guess that's it for today.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Michigan weather is just surreal this time of year. Saturday morning it was in the 50's, then around 2pm the temps started to drop. It snowed during the night and has been in the 20's and 30's since then. It isn't supposed to warm up any time soon with snow and rain/snow mix predicted on several days. You gotta love this stuff.

I ran the house off the inverter for the first time Saturday. It works ok, except that the batteries are so weak that they only last an hour or so. The generator we are using right now can't handle the house loads and bulk charging the batteries at the same time, so in order to do any further testing, I need to find a time I can shut down all the power in the house. I can't do that now that it's cold again because I don't like the house getting cold. It takes forever to recover with the hot water heat. So things are on hold for the time being.

After that little experiment, I spent the rest of the day doing odds and ends. The bathroom is one step closer to being complete after I hung the towel rod and toilet paper holder, tightened down outlets and switches and put on the covers, etc. None of that sounds like a big deal, but it is surprising the amount of time it can consume. I did get one other big job started: we have a giant transformer that allows us to run the well pump off the inverter. I got that puppy mounted on the wall in the mechanical room. No little deal given that I did it myself and it weighs over 100 pounds. I was all ready to hook it up to the power panel when I realized I had picked up the wrong style circuit breaker. (Sigh) Always something. Of course, by that time, everything was closed for the weekend. With some luck, I will get a replacement sometime this week and can finish up the job. We continue to spiral into a solution to our power dilemma; maybe by the time we retire and sell the place everything will be squared away.


I see our troops have surrounded Fallujah. That's step one to my solution I posted Friday. I suspect that we will send our troops into Fallujah instead of cutting off utilities and food until the residents of the town surrender those we want. That means that 1) our guys will get killed in the process and 2) the rest of the world will blame us for every Iraqi with a hangnail because we used excessive force in a civilian area. But there may still be hope that there are at least a few un-castrated males in our military command structure.

And Rudyard Kipling had something to say about the situation. For some reason, we think we can have the benefits of empire without the hard work.

On a different topic, I've been saying for some time that the reason that girls as young as 8 or 9 years old are dressing like prostitutes is because either their fathers have been castrated by their feminazi wives, or the divorce courts have removed them from their daughters lives, or they just disappear. In any case, I've argued that no self-respecting father would allow his 8-year-old daughter to parade around like a miniature Brittany Spears. Well, it seems I'm not alone. It' always nice to know that I'm not completely off the wall.


Certain recent events in my personal life have given me the opportunity to take a close peek at the pseudo-science of psychiatry. I've never had much respect for it in the past and nothing I've seen so far does anything to improve that opinion. There is now a 17-year-old girl labeled for life for being involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital, not because of something that was actually wrong with her, but because of the side effects of massive doses of psycho-active drugs prescribed by a "licensed" psychiatrist. The mind boggles at the doors that are now slammed shut for the rest of her life because she has been officially labeled as "mentally ill". I hope for his sake I never meet this "doctor;" he was essentially running an uncontrolled experiment on the brain of a 17-year-old girl.

And I need to get some work done.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Another class in the bag and another uneventful ride home. We made good time and I was home in bed by 1:30am. I got into work around 9:30am, so I won't have to be here half the night trying to get 8 hours in. Not much else planned for tonight other than relaxing. My sister and brother-in-law were called out of town unexpectedly, so Debbie will be staying at their house because my youngest niece is afraid to be home alone. But she's old enough to drive. Go figure.

Weather is still looking good. Most of the mud has dried up on our road although we still have some serious holes left over from snowplowing. I'll need to do some serious gravel work this summer as well as move a lot of trees and brush back away from the road. Plowing was a joke this winter because I have about half as much room as I need to stack snow. We won't be doing any real work on the house this summer, so I should have lots of time and money for working on the road and our drives between now and November.


It seems the Iraqis in Fallujah learned the lessons of Somalia well: mutilate some American bodies and we will run screaming to the hills. American as Empire. Right. A prediction: nothing will be done about this barbarism. It will just slide because our entire political structure and the upper command of our military has been castrated. We are a feminine society and will act the part in full. If there were anyone left in a position of authority that had balls between their legs, this, or something like it, is what would happen to Fallujah:

1. The US military surrounds Fallujah, cuts off all utilities, food, etc., and shoots anyone that tries to enter or leave.

2. We give the residents of Fallujah 48 hours to present the bodies of every person photographed in the mob. I don't care if they are 12 years old or 200. Every. Last. One. Dead and delivered.

3. Failing that, we move in and systematically dismantle the place until we find who we are looking for.

If we don't find every last one of them, the town of Fallujah will cease to exist. It wouldn't be the first time in history that has happened. One would hope the collective IQ of Fallujah residents would be high enough that step 3 wouldn't be necessary, but we are talking about Muslims, not regular people.

The US Postal Service continues to set the gold standard for callous treatment of front-line employees. If a private employer acted this way, every member of the management team would be brought up on criminal charges. But given this is the post office we are talking about, they will instead receive bonuses and promotions for bravely ordering others to stay at their posts while hiding in a safe office.

Speaking of the feminization of America, Fred Reed has another column sure to cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth in certain feminist organizations. Note what he concludes: not that the guy way of thinking is any more or less rational than the female way, but the results of doing things the female way may not be satisfactory for men or women.


More water on Mars. Just keeps getting better and better.

Here's one for the books: WorldNetDaily is whining because a site that gives tips to teachers who are teaching biology mentions that many Christians don't have a problem with evolution. WorldNetDaily claims this is misuse of taxpayer funds because is mixes church and state. No, it makes a statement that also happens to be a provable fact: most Jewish and Christian denominations have no problem with evolution. There isn't anything on this page that could possibly be construed as teaching a religious viewpoint, or promoting a given religious group. I usually expect more from WorldNetDaily, but I find this disappointing to say the least. I know many people who are devote Christians that believe in an ancient earth and common decent. So do I, for that matter. Claiming that a web site maintained on a U of C-Berkeley server that states that fact is violating the separation of church and state is just too far out there to be believed. If this is the best the Christian and/or Conservative communities can come up with, they may as well pack it in now and save everyone the trouble. By this interpretation, Berkeley should not allow Christian groups to meet on campus, which I'm sure would ruffle feathers at WND headquarters.

Well, that should keep everyone busy for a while.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Youth group last night wasn't what I expected. We had figured on a small group because of spring break. All but a couple of the teens had said they were going to be out of town. So of course we had more people than we've had in several months. Go figure. Anyway, it went pretty well even though what I had prepared for wouldn't have worked very well with the group we had.

Today, of course, is college. The drive down was uneventful and we are just getting ready to start our PLT. We have to hammer out a 12-page paper from what three people wrote, plus create a 20-minute presentation with Power Point slides all for class tonight. We may actually break a sweat at this meeting.

Anyway, not much else to report other than the weather is really starting to shape up into something nice. It will be great to be able to do some outdoor work this weekend and maybe even get in some time on the bike. It still drops down to freezing at night but daytime temps are 40-50 degrees F on a consistent basis. We have lost nearly all our snow. All that is left are the large snowplow piles and the snow that is in permanent shade. Even that is disappearing fast. Doesn't break my heart one bit. I haven't even been to my news sites yet, so not much to report from there.