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Archive for September, 2008

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House Pictures Return (again!)

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

To those who have been (rightly) bugging me about it, I finally got around to posting some more pictures of our House Construction project.

Our little slide show is up to 134 pictures at this point, so here’s what I’d suggest:

  1. If you want to see it from the beginning, click on the “House Construction Photoblog” picture at the left, or just click here.
  2. If you want to pick up where you left off (“only” 31 pictures to see), click here and then click on the little movie-screen icon on the right-side of your computer screen under the heading “House Construction (set).”  That will start you at a reasonable place & take you forward.

IMPORTANT:  Don’t forget to click the “Info On” button in the top, middle of the screen.  It will give you running commentary so you know what you’re looking at!

And now for the status update:  our project is <i>ahead</i> of schedule.  Yes, you read that right.  Our current plan is to move back in on Friday, October 10th.  There’s still a lot that needs to happen between now and then (finish the paint, stain the floors, finish the counter-tops, install the carpeting, deliver the furniture, install the TV’s/speakers, etc.), but our foreman, Bruce, believes it’s all doable.  We continue to get compliments on how organized Sherry is.  She’s a champ.  When all this is done, you’ll find her lounging in the hot tub…

That’s all for now!  Stop by & see it when/if you can, and look for the big announcement on 10/10 (or whenever I get internet access established again.  Gulp…)


Categories: Family Matters | No Comments »


Thursday, September 11th, 2008

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more

- John Lennon

Seven years.

For me, much has changed: My 16-month old is now a third grader, we’ve had another son who is now in kindergarten, I’ve changed jobs twice, we’ve gone through three leased cars, and we’re just about done renovating our home. We’ve made new friends, taken several trips, and built some lasting memories.

And, of course, much remains the same: a loving and supportive family, great friends, and hobbies/interests that bind us together and bring us much happiness.

As the poet said: some has changed, and some remains.

I don’t typically spend a lot of time looking back, since there’s so much to look forward to. But on a somber day like this, I can’t help thinking that had I been there that day, Sherry would be without a husband, Avery would be without a father, and Brandon wouldn’t exist at all. And then I note that 3,000 local families are living that reality, now and forever. I count my blessings, and I grieve for those who deserve them, but don’t have them.

I say it every year, and it probably sounds cliché, but I mean it every year: God bless them all and God Bless America.

Categories: Family Matters, New York, New York | 2 Comments »

Putting Lipstick on a Flip-Flop is a Choice

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

OK, I need some serious help. I’ve resolved to stop posting so much about politics, and I can’t seem to make it stop. I promise to pepper in some lighter topics along the way, but please bear with me through November. The first step is admitting you have a problem, or so I’m told.

Anyway, three things triggered the “I gotta blog that” switch over the last few days, so in short bursts:

First I thought the American Flag Lapel Pin was the dumbest thing we’d hear about leading up to this election. Then, we started talking about who eats arugula salads vs. “common” salads and I was proven wrong. This morning, we have a new winner. “Lipstick on a pig” is an extremely common expression. The context was a discussion of McCain’s policies and the policies of George W. Bush and the GOP in general. He didn’t mention Sarah Palin in his talk, nor did he imply that he was talking about her. There are only three ties to Sarah Palin in this story at all: 1) she used the word “lipstick” in her convention acceptance speech, 2) she’s female, so she occasionally wears lipstick, and 3) the media will not miss a chance to news catalog a popular story no matter how stupid it is, and Sarah Palin is the story du jour. So shame on the McCain campaign for manufacturing scandals with what Barack Obama called “phony outrage,” but also (a lesser degree of) shame on the Obama campaign for accusing McCain of playing “the gender card.” This isn’t about gender, it’s just stupid.


I’ve read in a few places now that Sarah Palin’s statement that she’s “proud of the choice that Bristol made” to keep her baby is inconsistent with her abortion stance. The standard line seems to be, “Sarah Palin doesn’t want women around the country to have the same choice her daughter had.” This isn’t as dumb as lipstick on pigs, but it’s still pretty disingenuous. Pro-life advocates, like Palin, believe that abortion is murder and, as such, want to make it illegal. Pro-choice advocates stress that a pregnant woman’s body is her own, and she should make the choice about what happens if she becomes pregnant. In this case, though, the pro-choice group seems to be implying that abortion is the only choice worth fighting for, by suggesting that if it were taken away, women would have no choice at all. This, of course, isn’t true. I’m sure the choices Palin were talking about for her daughter included things like adoption, foster care, surrogacy, etc.. I disagree with Palin on this issue, and I have other problems with how she handled the public disclosure of her daugther’s pregnancy, but I don’t think she’s being hypocritical about it.


Finally, we have Barack Obama’s latest “flip-flop,” this time on the use of 527 groups. 527 groups are third-party groups that run campaign ads on behalf of a candidate, but aren’t part of (or contributing directly to) his campaign, and therefore aren’t restricted by those pesky $1,000 limits on campaign contributions, etc.. For the past year, Obama has been discouraging Democrats from forming these groups and telling donors not to contribute to them, so that he and he alone could control his message. Now that John McCain has seen a bump in the polls (and a bump in his ability to raise money), Obama has suddenly stopped discouraging them, and his campaign has made casual comments that seem to encourage them, like “I assume with [Republicans'] 527s stirring, some [Democratic] ones will as well.”

I’m not so fussed about whether he uses 527 groups or not. They’re legal, and the events above suggest nothing more to me than someone who was idealistically promising more than he could give and is now backing off that promise to be just like everyone else. What does bug me about this (and the similar situation regarding campaign funding) is the pattern I’m noticing with Obama about making and keeping promises. He seems convinced that if conditions change around him, and he feels he has a good reason to break a promise, then somehow it’s OK that he does so. This might be idealism run amok, but it also might be a tendency to paint himself into corners & then walk all over the nicely painted floor when he does. That kind of behavior will not help in his quest to rebuild our reputation with our allies, create open dialogue with hostile leaders, etc..

Think of this as not so much of a complaint as a concern. George W. Bush has a habit of stubbornly sticking with his original plan even when conditions around him suggest a change, and we see how well that played out in places like New Orleans and Iraq. If Obama has the opposite problem, the effects could be just as damaging…

Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | No Comments »

World Fails to End; Scientists Prepared to Try Again

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Scientists at Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, or CERN, tested their Large Hadron Collider yesterday, sending a beam of protons around a 17-mile underground ring in 51 minutes, achieving a blinding speed of 20 miles per hour.

The experiment caused concerns in just about everyone who has no idea what they’re talking about (read: the media, the blogosphere, etc.) that this experiment could generate one or more black holes, which would destroy the earth in an obvious, last-ditch attempt by the Yankees to keep the Red Sox from winning another World Series. Other, more qualified observers, like Britain’s famed Stephen Hawking, called the experiment absolutely safe. James Gillies, chief spokesman for CERN, used a technical term for the concern: “nonsense.”

But the folks at CERN aren’t done. For their next trick, they will attempt to send protons around the ring backwards. Once that’s accomplished, they’ll try it in both directions, but much faster – up to 11,000 revolutions per second (or 673,200,000 miles per hour – roughly the speed of light). Then, in a trick worthy of the best kid’s birthday party magician, they’ll try it in both directions at the same time, forcing the protons to collide at that speed, recreating elements of The Big Bang, generally recognized to be the home run that Aaron Boone hit off of Tim Wakefield to win Game 6 of the 2003 American League Playoffs the event that created the universe.

All of this is expected in the next few months, according to Lyn Evans, the project’s director. So, on the off chance that Hawking and Gillies are wrong and the tabloid press is correct, you might want to consider finishing off that bucket list before New Years.

If all of this sounds a bit like science fiction to you, then you’re not all that off. The following is from a book summary of Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (subsequently of The Da Vinci Code fame):

Langdon lands in Geneva with a mild case of altitude sickness, and an even more intense case of confusion. He finds himself located at Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), and receives a personal greeting from the wheelchair-riding director general himself, Maximilian Kohler. [...]

The CERN campus houses more than three thousand physicists of various nationalities and academic backgrounds. Langdon is escorted to “The Penthouse” where Leonardo Vetra, a brilliant scientist, was murdered only hours before, and he discovers the uncomfortable truth that only Kohler, Vetra’s adopted daughter, and himself are aware of the homicide. The discretion is to allow Ms. Vetra time to return from her field work and assess the private nature of the lab she and her father shares before a formal investigation takes place. [...]

The three individuals approach Dr. Vetra’s subterranean lab. Vetra explains that the lab contains the world’s largest particle accelerator (the LHC); over twenty-eight kilometers long and eight kilometers in diameter. [...]

Langdon, Kohler, and Vetra find the subterranean lab deserted. Vetra describes how her father sought to prove that science supported the concept of God, most specifically in describing the moment of singularity, or Genesis, in regards to the Big Bang. Leonardo Vetra had developed a way to create matter out of nothing using the accelerator tube. Not only did he succeed in creating miniature universes, but he also created the dark matter which comes hand in hand with the known matter here on earth. Several specimens of anti-matter are contained in canisters in the lab.

Note that the book was written in 2000. Work on the actual CERN LHC began in 2003, although the project that eventually built it has been in the works since 1984.

So, to sum up: when seeking scientific information, the two best sources of information are Stephen Hawking and Dan Brown.

UPDATE: If you’re still concerned about the LHC, you can visit http://www.hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/ for real-time updates.

(Hat tip: Willow Gross)

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging, The Future is Now | 2 Comments »

Quarters for Laundry? Thing of the Past…

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The University of Pennsylvania has signed a deal with a laundry equipment manufacturer that will allow them to put laundry machines in their College House dorms and offer them free to students for two years.  After that, school officials say, they will work out a “general laundry use fee.”  Details are not decided yet, but the general idea would be that you pay for your laundry on your regular tuition bill, rather than shelling out quarters every time you need to run a machine.

First the slot machines, now this…

To be expected, I guess.  But here’s the part the geek in me found most fascinating:

Housing Services is also installing a “Laundry Alert System” by the end of October, [Penn spokeswoman Barbara] Lea-Kruger wrote. The system will allow residents to choose a laundry room based on availability of machines and will send out an alert when the laundry is completed.

I can see it now:  ”Hold on, Mom – I’ve got another call.  <Click> <Pause> <Click> That was the laundry machine – my whites are done.  I’ll call you later…”


Categories: The Future is Now, University of Pennsylvania | 1 Comment »

Sarah Palin, bear, on a couch…

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I bet you thought the title had a typo in it, huh?

At any rate, I love this picture. I’ve been in some intimidating offices in my time, but can you imagine arguing policy with someone who’s sitting on that couch? Oh, and while the bear just looks dead, the crab looks shellacked!

Sadly, of course, bears and crabs like these are probably a dime a dozen in Alaska. If she wins, though, she’s got to bring that thing to Washington…

Categories: Political Rantings, The World Wide Weird | 2 Comments »

Before It’s Too Late: Thoughts on the Republican Convention

Monday, September 8th, 2008

This whole “stuff happens every night, even when you’re too busy to be blogging this week” thing is a real drag, ya know? Anyway, since I wrote about the DNC (motto: “holds conventions on more convenient weeks for Brian Greenberg”) on a nightly basis, I figure I should at least lay down a few paragraphs for their rivals.

Those who are bored by such things, please move along…

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

NOLA Officials Achieve the Impossible

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

What a difference three years make.

Three years ago, despite warnings of a major hurricane approaching, Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, didn’t issue a mandatory evacuation until more than a week after the storm had passed. He didn’t have a plan in place for getting patients out of hospitals or nursing homes in the event of system-wide power loss. He told us that people in the poorest wards of New Orleans couldn’t leave their homes because they couldn’t afford basic transportation out of the area, despite school buses and Greyhound buses which sat idle in parking lots as the storm hit. He had no evacuation plan, causing massive confusion and unsafe conditions at places like the Convention Center and the Superdome. His police force was ineffectual, allowing massive looting and violence which delayed rescue and rebuilding efforts. He went on television and complained that the federal government wasn’t doing enough to save his city, and refused to do any more press conferences until help arrived.

Three years ago, despite warnings of a major hurricane approaching, Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, couldn’t properly fill out the paperwork to federalize the National Guard. She told guardsmen from Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas that her state didn’t need assistance, turning away manpower and supplies at the borders. She couldn’t coordinate with neighboring states to handle displaced people, share resources, or communicate effectively with the federal government. She joined with dozens of others to sharply criticize President Bush and FEMA director Mike Brown for letting her state down.

All of these things, we were told, were unavoidable. Coordinating a response to such a large natural disaster in a city that was below sea-level, inadequately protected by a crumbling levee system, and suffering from extreme levels of poverty, crime and drugs was impossible.

Last weekend, though, the impossible became the actual. Mayor Nagin evacuated the city before the storm hit. He took care of hospital and nursing home patients. He provided free buses to those who couldn’t afford to leave on their own, and convincingly instructed them to leave. He issued a dusk to dawn curfew. He sent his police force into the streets before the storm to make a final sweep for people or property that was in avoidable danger.

Last weekend, the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas coordinated with the federal government to prepare for damage control. The national guard stood ready to assist, their mission clear and their authority unquestioned. There were some communication difficulties, but these were addressed as much as possible before the storm hit, and with little or no political finger-pointing.

FEMA’s role in Hurricane Gustav is just beginning now. When they enter New Orleans and other coastal cities, they will do what FEMA usually does – hand out money, build temporary shelters, coordinate local relief agencies in providing assistance to those in need. They will not be scrambling to pull survivors off of rooftops or rescue dying patients from the top floors of hospitals where doctors and nurses try in vain to keep patients alive with CPR because their life support systems are without power.

Three years ago, FEMA was faced with a situation unlike anything it had ever experienced. It’s lack of flexibility and responsiveness earned it a well deserved black eye, and provided unfortunate cover for the travesties brought upon the area by a mayor and governor who so badly dropped the ball.

Three years ago, Louisiana’s two senators – Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican David Vitter — wrote a letter to Senate leaders urging them to put aside partisan bickering in assigning blame over the federal response and focus on providing for victims. “Please do not make the citizens of Louisiana a victim once again by allowing our immediate needs to be delayed by partisanship,” they wrote.

This week, no one will be complaining about the federal response. Unfortunately, it’s likely that no one will ask the local officials why they couldn’t have taken these actions during Katrina. Did they really need the fatal memories of Katrina behind them in order to provide for their citizens’ basic needs? If so, then shame on them.

Categories: Political Rantings | No Comments »

The Palin Pick – What Matters and What Doesn’t

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Weeks ago, when discussing the candidates and their potential vice-presidential picks, a co-worker of mine told me about the female, Republican governor of Alaska, who was smart, articulate, conservative, and attractive. Until last Friday, this was all I had heard about Sarah Palin.

It appears I was not alone.

According to the Washington Post, John McCain first met Governor Palin last February at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington. His next meeting with her was last Thursday, when he offerred her the nomination for Vice President of the United States.

This disturbs me greatly. Not because of of Sarah Palin’s relative inexperience or qualification for the job, not because of some local dispute over a fired state trooper, not because of a DUI conviction twenty-two years ago, and certainly not because her daughter is 17 years old, unmarried and pregnant. This disturbs me because a reasonable person does not pick, as his closest advisor and planned successor, someone he hardly knows and has never worked with.

The above linked article claims that McCain was impressed with what he heard about Gov. Palin and pleased with what he read and saw coming out of the vetting process. All that is well and good, but it doesn’t top working together to push through a piece of legislation, or sitting together on a committee, or teaming up to advocate for/against a given cause. That kind of exposure to a person tells you whether or not you work well together, whether you can develop a partnering relationship, and how much responsibility you can trust that person to take on in your administration.

John McCain has been in the senate for 26 years. There must be dozens of people to whom he has had this kind of exposure, and yet he chose, instead, to go with someone he’s heard and read good things about.

I’m doing my best to withhold judgement on Sarah Palin as a candidate until I’ve heard her speak. I’ve followed politics enough to know that the media can paint a misleading picture of a person, so I won’t write her off as a bad choice until she’s had a chance to make her case. I’ll admit that her social/religious views are very different than my own, and that I’m mystified by her apparent unmitigated pride over her daughter’s decision to have her baby, without a single comment about the downsides of unprotected sex at the age of seventeen. It doesn’t strike me as congruent with the Christian Family Values that she claims to uphold, but again – I will withhold judgement until I hear about it from her, not the media.

I will not, however, withhold judgement on John McCain’s decision making process. Even if Gov. Palin turns out to be a terrific choice, it seems obvious to me that John McCain chose a person that would get him through November 4th, 2008, not someone who would get him through January of 2013. And that’s a waste and a shame.

Categories: Political Rantings | 6 Comments »

Things You See While…Walking in Rockefeller Center

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Man carrying a small child in a Baby Bjorn baby carrier – baby facing forward. Baby notices a pigeon walking on the ground. Man walks toward the pigeon; pigeon slowly waddles away. Baby shrieks with delight and reaches out to touch the pigeon. Man clearly enjoys this newly discovered form of baby entertainment.

Pigeon decides it’s had enough and flies away suddenly. Baby begins to scream inconsolably. Man seeks another pigeon, but now that he’s wearing a screaming baby, every pigeon he approaches flies away instantly. The sight of pigeons constantly flying away is salt in the baby’s psychological wound. Screaming and crying intensify. Previously proud man is suddenly in a world of shit with no way out.

Lesson learned: Never commit to a strategy without a backup plan…

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 1 Comment »

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