Friday, November 26, 2004

That would appear to be my leg you're pulling. Alas.

Sigh. It turns out that that the article about the Indiana congressman introducing legislation to change the designation of Interstate 69 was from a satirical web site and was fictional. Who knew? If it had been The Onion, I'd have figured it out. But this struck me as being entirely reasonable for an Indiana congressman, given the present makeup of the national government.

The good news is that I wasn't the only person taken in by the article. From a page on their web site with comments they received about the article:

"Hostettler's proposal is truly the stupidest thing I have read all day. What's next on his agenda -- changing the name of French Lick to Freedom Lick?"


"This article on I-69 is making you people look like serious yahoos. I presume that's because you are. I live in Knoxville, TN, and to look like a yahoo from here, you have to be pretty awful."


"Could you also ask the Congressman look into that 'asphalt' term? It's very disturbing."

Monday, November 22, 2004

A little light housecleaning.

Very little, and figuratively only, as anyone who's seen the inside of my house will attest to.

Updates to a few entries I've had recently. The Washington Post editorial page takes the latest nominee for Attorney General to task. Key quote: "Why is a lawyer whose opinions have produced such disastrous results for his government -- in their practical application, in their effect on U.S. international standing and in their repeated reversal by U.S. courts -- qualified to serve as attorney general?"

There's been a partial settlement in lawsuits following the collapse of the bonfire structure at Texas A&M. $4.25 million to the families of four students who died and three who were injured, in settlement of claims against student leaders. Key quote: "The bonfire student leaders wanted to return to their lives and their household insurance companies wanted resolution, said Dallas attorney Chuck Aris, who represents four of them." Lucky thing the student leaders had lives they could return to, unlike - say - their followers.

And to the extent that the lunatic Congressman who wants to change the numbering of Interstate 69 (because it causes teens to snigger, wear their hair long, and create dance crazes, or whatever) had any semi-valid grounds that the extension of I-69 would be west of I-65, and thereby run afoul of the Official Numbering Scheme of Interstate Highways, the internet comes to the rescue: Someone has a web page with all the instances where the Official Numbering Scheme is violated, and nobody seems all that interested in changing any of the other violative highways. (My favorite? The stretch in Virginia where, on the same highway, you are simultaneously going north on I-77 and south on I-81.)

Darwinism at work.

Wonderful story out of Wisconsin. Deer hunters shooting at each other, apparently in a dispute over a hunting stand. Ends only when the primary shooter runs out of ammunition. Guess the deer aren't the only ones who should keep their heads down.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Your tax dollars at work.

An Indiana congressman is going to introduce legislation to change the name of Interstate 69 to something less dirty. Since, after all, the names of highways are well-known as erotic stimuli. Well, maybe in Indiana.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Thought for the day.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more
closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain
folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House
will be adorned by a downright moron."

- H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Because so few mice know how to dance.

What’s worse than finding a dead mouse in your office? Finding a dying mouse in your office.

Okay, I guess we can’t blame Mia the Wondercat for this one. It’s the mouse on my computer that is on its last legs. (Or whatever.) The ball inside rolls around just fine, and it’s clean enough, but the sensors that detect the motion of the ball recognize only up-and-down motion, not side-to-side. And since no links or commands are ever lined up directly under the mouse’s location, or straight up or down from it, I now have to get around on the screen with some combination of Ctrl- commands and tabbing. No fun at all. But I’m sure I’ll go out tonight or tomorrow to get a new one.

What’s worse still? Having your cat find and play with a live mouse at 3 in the morning, and she’s enjoying it so much that she wants to share the pleasure with you, so she jumps up onto the bed with the mouse in her mouth, and lets it loose so she (and you) can chase it. (Again, not Mia. That was Sabrina, when she still thought of mice as self-propelled fuzzy chew toys rather than as snacks.)

Friday, November 12, 2004


Waiting in traffic last night, I noticed the license plate of the car next to mine: “1-1-CAPT

“One-One-Captain”? What a stupid plate to have, and an especially stupid one to pay extra for.

Yes, I understand: It could be somewhat funny if they were roman numerals representing “one” instead of arabic numerals, because you could pronounce “I-I-CAPT” as “aye, aye, Captain,” but they aren’t, so you can’t, and it isn’t.

Gah. Well, I suppose it’s an extra ten bucks for the Commonwealth every year, so that has to be the silver lining.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

One bad choice deserves another.

Why would anyone think it would be any different? Bush's nominee for the Attorney General position is just as much of a train wreck as Ashcroft was.

He thinks a little torture - whether in Guantanamo or Abu Graib - is just fine. He thinks that the Geneva Convention is "quaint" and outmoded. He thinks that fair trials are a convenience we can no longer afford.

Just the kind of person we need to have in charge of enforcing the law.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

He's back! And about time.

Starting Nov. 21, the Sunday-only and dead-tree-edition only comic "Opus" will bring back Steve Dallas. Older, and no wiser.

Monday, November 08, 2004

"Jodie. Oh, Jodie."

The Post reports that John Hinckley's lawyer is making the claim that Hinckley is no longer mentally ill, and thus should be permitted to have longer (four-day) unsupervised visits every other week to his parents' home in Williamsburg. Government attorneys oppose the claim and the request.

What I want to know is this: Since Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and is involuntarily locked up in St. Elizabeth's because he's considered mentally ill, shouldn't what follows the claim that he's no longer mentally ill be that he should be released? And not that he should have longer visits away before returning for continued incarceration?

The trailer is out.

And it looks pretty good; although, of course, that's what trailers are supposed to do.

Good use of the older Obi-Wan Kenobi for the voice-over. A little risky, though: reminding people of the quality of the original Star Wars movie raises the bar well above the level hit by Episodes I and II. Looks like we'll get some good scenes leading to the creation of Darth Vader, a Mace Windu lightsaber fight, and what seems to be a lightsaber duel between Anakin and young Obi-Wan. Looks like we get some weak scenes, too, with another Dancing Yoda lightsaber fight and ground-war scenes on the Wookiee homeworld.

How many more days until May 19?

Update: Well, the link I had here earlier worked this morning, but doesn't seem to be working now. So I've substituted the official Star Wars site, and I imagine that one will keep working.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A waste of five million dollars.

That's how much it cost to build Texas A&M's memorial to what they're calling the "bonfire victims". Yes, they're spending a boatload of money to memorialize the 11 undergraduates and 1 graduate student who died, and the 27 people injured, when the annual bonfire for the pep rally before the University of Texas football game collapsed while they were building it. (This would be a "bonfire" that was 170 feet across, made of thousands of telephone-pole-sized logs, layered like a wedding cake, weighing over two millions pounds.)

The university's official report found both engineering/design problems and behavioral/organizational problems as root causes for the collapse (including the lack of any written design or professional review of design changes of the Bonfire, the lack of student knowledge concerning structural integrity in construction), but played down other factors, such as the cavalier attitude towards safety, seen in the high incidence of injury (8 to 10 times that of similar occupations, such as forestry or heavy construction), and the hazing, horseplay, and drinking that went on at the construction site (two of the students who died had blood alcohol levels well in excess of the legal limit for driving).

Five million dollars could have funded a lot of scholarships, which would have been a far better memorial to those who died in the collapse of the tower of logs. Well, it would be, at a school where education was considered important. But this is A&M, after all.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Sage of Monticello.

There is a theory out there that you can find a quotation from Thomas Jefferson (or attributed to him, which is pretty much the same) on any topic you want.

And sure enough, like Nostradamus, Mr. Jefferson has already spoken on the 2004 election:

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to it's true principles. It is true that in the mean time we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war & long oppressions of enormous public debt. ... If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, & then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are the stake. Better luck, therefore, to us all; and health, happiness, & friendly salutations to yourself.

And to show that he knows what's in store for us in with the office of Attorney General, he added a P.S. to that letter:

P. S. It is hardly necessary to caution you to let nothing of mine get before the public. A single sentence, got hold of by the Porcupines, will suffice to abuse & persecute me in their papers for months.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


You don't have to fool all of the people all of the time; it would appear that fooling 51% of them for four years will suffice.

I suppose this shows the power of appealing to your base support - and however you want to interpret "base" is fine by me - instead of appealing to the broad center or the other guy's support. Works fine for being elected; doesn't work quite so well for governing, as Mister "I'm a Uniter" has discovered.

Still, it's pretty amazing how well Bush has gotten people to vote against their best interests: convincing low- and middle-income Americans to vote in favor of tax breaks for billionaires, convincing the self-styled religious that someone who doesn't go to church has "more faith" than someone with a life-long commitment to his religion, convincing 18- to 24-year-olds (and their parents) that a draft-dodger with megalomania who sends American troops off to die in a pointless war solely for his own glory is a good commander-in-chief.

All we can do now is pray for Rehnquist's speedy recovery and his discovery of the Fountain of Youth, so that he sticks around as Chief Justice for at least four more years. (And who'd have thought I'd ever say that?)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The early bird gets to vote.


Took nine minutes from the time I left the car in the parking lot at the polling place until I got back to it. And that included hiking across the parking lot to get to the building, and waiting in line at the end-of-the-alphabet table.

Of course, it's easy to vote quickly when there are only four issues on the ballot: the presidential race, a virtually uncontested congressional race (there was a lunatic independent; I voted for him), and two silly state constitutional amendments (extending the line of succession for the governorship in case of, you know, attack or something, and providing for interim elections for vacant congressional seats after redistricting).

At the time I voted - 6:50 this morning - I was somewhere between the 250th and 300th voter in my precinct. Back in February, when I voted in the Democratic primary at 6:50 a.m., I was the first person to vote. Says something about the precinct I live in, not that it's a surprise, given all the Bush placards in people's yards.

Now all we have to do is wait.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Pretty interesting.

Across the room today, there was some sort of discussion relating to the time-value of money, and how much something invested today would be worth in 18 years. (I had tuned out the beginning of the discusion, but I think it had to do with saving for children’s college education. The time period would be about right for that. Possibly the choice was between purchasing an HDTV or putting money away for the kid’s college fund.)

Very funny listening to the mathematically challenged try to figure out how much today’s investment would be worth in the future. “It has something to do with compound interest. Anybody know how to figure compound interest?” “I figure you can get 8 percent return every year, so let’s use 8 percent.” “I can’t figure out compound interest, and I’m proud of that.” “All you need to do is to multiply the original amount by 8 percent, then add that into it, and do it again a total of 18 times.“ “Or you could multiply 1.08 by itself 18 times, and then multiply that times the original amount.” “That’s too much work. There has to be a simpler way, like using a formula or something.” “Those two ways are doing the exact same thing. They just give you different results.”

And a helpful suggestion: “It would be easy to set up a spreadsheet to figure it out. Unfortunately, we don’t have Excel on our computers.”

Or, of course, you could always use that old rule of thumb, the Rule of 72: Divide 72 by the interest rate, and that gives you a pretty close estimate of how many years it will take to double the original amount. And that works especially well with the numbers they were throwing around: An 8 percent investment will double in 72/8 (or 9) years, and in 18 years, it would double twice: So you’d have quadrupled your original principal amount. Ten seconds’ effort, even for people who have to count on their fingers.

And would it surprise anyone to learn that the guy who was proud of the fact that he can’t do fourth-grade math is the same one who wears the pants with duck pictures on them?

Get out the vote.

Hmmph. Article in today's Post about both sides unleashing "unprecedented efforts to mobilize voters."

Maybe so, but I have to say: I have been contacted the least of any presidential election since 1976. No telephone calls. No junk mail from either party. Nobody knocking at the door. Nothing. Not a single contact. For any of the contests on the ballot, not just the presidential race.

I can understand why the Republicans don't contact me: they're hoping that I'll wake up tomorrow and not turn on the tv, radio, or internet, and forget that it's Election Day. But the Democrats? They haven't even contacted me for a contribution since July, and they certainly haven't gently reminded me to go and vote.

And it's not as though they don't know I'm here: I contributed to the Kerry campaign, starting in August 2003, a matter of public record. I voted in the primary in Februray, a matter of public record. (And I shoot off my mouth in public often enough.)

I know: Virginia isn't a battleground state, although it's likely to be closer than it was in 2000. And this congressional district doesn't have a Democratic candidate, and I think the only other things on the ballot are noncontroversial constitutional amendments.

Doesn't matter, though. I'll go vote anyway.