Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
  • Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
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    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    Oklahoma Sky

    Here's a few quick shots I took of the stormclouds overhead last night (click photos for full-size versions).

    Wish I was a better photographer, but you can sort of get the gist of how cool it looked.

    Posted by Tom, 3/31/2009 5:09:28 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Song of the Day

    I don't remember when it started, but for some time now I've been waking up every morning to a song... not on the radio, but in my head. It's usually not the same song; it changes almost every day. No matter what other music I listen to for the rest of the day, the song stays with me. At times when I'm "idling", not thinking of anything in particular, it creeps back into my consciousness and plays in the background of my thoughts. It tends to set my mood for the day, an effect that can be good or bad, depending on the day and the song.

    Facebook has a "status" line, where you're supposed to put in whatever you're doing or thinking about. I ran out of witty things to say in my status a while back, and I don't really care to update the world on my goings-on every minute of the day, as some do. I also get frustrated if I think I'm repeating myself, so "another day, another dollar"-type posts really don't do it for me.

    So, because I'm lacking in imagination and hate repeating myself and don't want to leave the same status up for weeks at a time, I figured I'd start listing the song of the day as my status. Of course, that means I have to endure the occasional unfunny comment from friends who fancy themselves comedians when the song title is the least bit suggestive, as with today's song, "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover", by Sophie B. Hawkins. Like Joe Pesci, I'm just a clown, here to amuse.

    Posted by Tom, 3/31/2009 7:28:06 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    Rules without Brains

    As if to underscore the previous post, I ran across this article:

    TRENTON, N.J. - A 14-year-old New Jersey girl has been accused of child pornography after posting nearly 30 explicit nude pictures of herself on -- charges that could force her to register as a sex offender if convicted.

    The case comes as prosecutors nationwide pursue child pornography cases resulting from kids sending nude photos to one another over cell phones and e-mail...


    Called "sexting" when it's done by cell phone, teenagers' habit of sending sexually suggestive photos of themselves and others to one another is a nationwide problem that has confounded parents, school administrators and law enforcers.

    Prosecutors in states including Pennsylvania, Connecticut, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin have tried stop it by charging teens who send and receive the pictures.

    Racy pictures
    In northeastern Pennsylvania, a prosecutor recently threatened to file child porn charges against three teenage girls who authorities say took racy cell-phone pictures that ended up on classmates' cell phones.

    "...prosecutors nationwide pursue child pornography cases resulting from kids sending nude photos to one another over cell phones and e-mail". While it is disturbing to me that kids in their early teens are sending nude photos (presumably of themselves) to one another, I somehow find it much more disturbing that adult prosecutors "nationwide" can't tell that this is obviously a parenting problem, not a legal one. It's sad that a girl that young is so starved for attention that she resorts to such behavior, it truly is. But it's downright frightening that the adults in the situation think it's appropriate to charge her with child pornography and give her the modern-day equivalent of a lifelong scarlet letter.

    Think forward 10 years or so. She's an adult, grown up, past her years of teenage indiscretions. She moves into a new neighborhood... but can't even look at half the homes because she's a "registered sex offender". People fond of scouring the registries to scare themselves to death see her on the registry, along with the charge: "Child Pornography", with no other information. Is anyone anywhere going to take the time to find out what the circumstances were? Is anyone going to discover that she was a stupid teenager doing a stupid thing with her own body, not anyone else's, and find a way to accept her into the community and forgive her past?

    No. They're going to avoid her, and tell their kids to walk on the other side of the street from her house. She'll be under suspicion for the rest of her life. Her own children will be tainted by her label. No one will want them around, for fear that they'll somehow corrupt their kids. Her 2-year-old running around the front yard in nothing but a diaper will be cause to call the cops on suspicion of abuse. Her husband will automatically be suspected of being an accomplice who just wasn't caught. And all because teenagers do stupid stuff all the time, and adults who somehow managed to graduate law school and pass the bar exam are too stupid to recognize it.

    Feel safer yet?

    Posted by Tom, 3/29/2009 5:53:22 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    A small victory

    I'm not much of a fan of the ACLU, but I do like that they're challenging sex offender laws, as they did recently in Pennsylvania:

    [The ACLU] also argued that the Allegheny County ordinance clashed with the state's system of post-prison registration, monitoring, and rehabilitation. In a decision the county plans to appeal, U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster agreed with the latter argument, finding that the ordinance impedes rehabilitation by preventing offenders from returning to their communities upon being released, which in some cases prevents them from being released at all.

    Lancaster also noted the ordinance's broad sweep, which includes many people who never victimized children or who are unlikely to re-offend. Of the six offenders represented by the ACLU, three were convicted of sex offenses involving other adults whom they knew; one was convicted of a sex offense minor enough that he did not serve any prison time for it; and one is on parole for "a sex offense involving a 17-year-old victim, which occurred soon after he became 18."

    The fact that the courts are (slowly) beginning to take notice of how ridiculous these laws have become gives me some small measure of hope. I especially like the fact that the court recognized my most basic argument against sex offender laws, which is that they are an impediment to rehabilitation. It seems to me that should be everyone's goal.

    The unwashed masses may wish to scare themselves silly with tales of bogeymen coming for their children, but at some point reason and clear-headed thinking (not to mention mercy and basic humanity) really need to prevail.

    Posted by Tom, 3/28/2009 7:05:02 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Every OS Sucks

    An oldie but a goodie...

    Best line: "...32 kilobytes of RAM... it was enough to go to the moon, it was enough for you."

    Posted by Tom, 3/26/2009 7:33:08 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    Elected officials are that rare breed of multi-taskers who can both cause a problem and be incensed by the results.
    --Ron Hart, Obama's New Deal: An envy-based economy

    Posted by Tom, 3/26/2009 6:46:53 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Welcome to Bizarro World

    Fox News has discovered a real-life Midas Mulligan, in the form of the East Bridgewater Savings Bank in Massachussetts:

    "We're paranoid about credit quality," [chief executive Joseph Petrucelli] told the Boston Business Journal.

    That paranoia has allowed East Bridgewater Savings Bank to stand out among a flurry a failing banks, with no delinquent loans or foreclosures on its books, the Journal reported. East Bridgewater Savings didn't even need to set aside in money in 2008 for anticipated loan losses.

    But rather than reward Petrucelli's tactics, the FDIC recently criticized his bank for not lending enough, slapping it with a "needs to improve" rating under the Community Reinvestment Act, the Journal reported.

    Another interesting fact: the bank has lent 28 cents for every dollar it has on deposit, compared with the industry average of 90 cents per dollar.

    And yet Massachussetts' own Barney Frank will tell you most emphatically that the Community Reinvestment Act has no downside. It could therefore be presumed that he approves of the FDIC's rating on East Bridgwater Savings, and wishes they were also bellying up to the trough for their share of the government bailout money.

    (hat tip, Reason)

    Posted by Tom, 3/25/2009 5:32:39 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009


    A few years ago, I had a cancer scare that turned out to be nothing. Going through the tests and worry was bad enough, but I found that the truly exhausting thing was in updating everybody on how things were going. Trying to remember everyone who's expressed an interest in your situation, notify them about any little change for better or worse, and especially dealing with the ones who just seem to want the information for its own sake... to me, that whole thing was even more overwhelming than the medical procedures. For people with real problems, it must be absolutely insane-making.

    I've griped before about how those of us surrounding a sick or injured person can behave as though the whole circus is all about us. We let our feelings get hurt, and reproach the person we're supposedly caring for, or we determine how we're going to "help" in advance and refuse to listen to what they need. The "broadcasting my status" thing is hard enough, but a lot of us make it even harder with our codependent ways.

    It's because of this that during a few of the sick/injured episodes I've been party to lately, I've simply told the people intimately affected, "don't worry about updating me. I don't need to know every last detail to be able to pray for the situation. And if you want to talk about anything else and completely avoid the subject because you're sick of talking about it, that's fine too." I don't know how much that has helped, but from my own experience I know that I wish some of the needier types had given me the freedom to ignore them like that.

    And this brings me to, truly one of the greatest sites on the internet. I've seen it in use twice now, and it is absolutely awesome. Essentially, it is a place to put up a temporary website for a sick or injured person, and invite others to surround them with love and encouragement. It's a place to put all of the updates in one place, and anyone who's registered with that particular CarePage will be notified by email when anything changes. It keeps the rubberneckers at bay while still including everyone who wishes to be included in the circle of care that every sick person needs.

    Right now, I'm using it to keep updated on the condition of the daughter of some acquaintances who was in a skiing accident. I don't know the parents very well, and don't know the daughter at all, so it would ordinarily be kind of weird to ask them to "keep me posted" on her condition through the usual channels. But with CarePages, I can be a part of the group that's hoping and praying for her recovery, hearing about all the encouraging signs as she works her way through her coma, and just generally participate without being more imposition than help.

    The site is apparently ad-supported, but it's done in a tasteful way that doesn't detract from the important function of each CarePage. In fact, I had to go to Jessica's page and look just now because I couldn't remember seeing any ads. It's such a great tool, addressing a need that so few of us ever really contemplate, that it makes me wish I had come up with it. I hope it continues to serve those who need it well into the future.

    Posted by Tom, 3/24/2009 4:07:43 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    I'm still waiting...

    ...for the boundless font of fresh, innovative ideas that the Democrats have been saying we'd have if only they were in charge. So far, it seems like they've got one idea, and they're going to ride it all the way to Hell: "Throw money at it."

    I've lost track of where we are on the big scoreboard. Is this latest trillion-dollar plan part of the old trillion-dollar plan, is it a new trillion-dollar plan, or is it half of the first trillion-dollar plan mixed with some new trillion dollars?

    So far, I think I've heard about:

    $800 billion for the Bush crapospendtabulous "stimulus" bill
    $1 trillion for the Obama "stimulus"
    $1 trillion of newly printed money
    $1 trillion now for this "toxiculus" bill to buy up so-called "toxic" assets (which wouldn't be so toxic if the government didn't force banks to realize losses on paper every day, regardless of whether an asset has been sold)
    and something about a $3.6 trillion budget that apparently has nothing to do with the above

    So if all of these are indeed separate items on the ledger, we're looking at $7.4 trillion in government panic that will ultimately do nothing to solve the "crisis", but will no doubt find its way into the coffers of various political cronies and other lower forms of life. Nice work, if you can get it.

    Posted by Tom, 3/23/2009 5:09:19 PM (Permalink). 5 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, March 20, 2009


    ...some way, accidentally and not on purpose, I grew some traps. Granted they're not alien-looking slabs of beef that appear to be chowing down on my neck, a la this guy:

    ...but they're definitely there. My shoulders used to be "collarbone, piece of skin, back", now they're "collarbone, something solid, back".

    At this point I imagine it's probably the military press that's doing it, since that's the only exercise regularly in my routine that would even affect them. Of course, it's also hardening up the deltoids, much to my delight.

    I'm still not doing the bodybuilding thing, and I'm still primarily focused on performance. But it is neato to see the occasional aesthetic benefit along with the other stuff. The only aesthetic benefit that I really want and try to work toward and which is still eluding me is getting rid of this stupid spare tire. I realize it's all in the diet, a dragon which I have trouble slaying and keeping slain. Oh well, keep chipping away at it, I guess.

    Posted by Tom, 3/20/2009 5:33:18 PM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Bite-sized Economics: Supply-side and Demand-side

    From Reason:

    Given the size, will the stimulus work as advertised? Will the goods and services—be they concrete for new highway projects or groceries for hungry families—pump up flagging demand and boost stalled economic activity?

    If so, it will be the first time in modern recorded history.

    The article goes on to describe various historical interventions and their results. This should be unnecessary, however. The problem is as simple as the old argument between what is pejoratively called "supply-side economics" and the putative alternative, "demand-side economics".

    Stimulus packages and government recovery efforts, as indicated in the phrase "pump up flagging demand", are examples of demand-side thinking. The problem is that demand has never really produced anything.

    A simple way to look at this is to think of transportation: there is very likely an extreme level of untapped demand for instantaneous travel from a given point to any other point. How many people would love to have (and would pay for the privilege of using) a 1-second commute from home to work and back? How would the travel industry grow by leaps and bounds with such capabilities? But despite this easily imaginable (and likely very real) demand, no such device or transportation system has materialized. This is due to the very simple reason that wishing won't make it so. The fact is that demand, a desire for something that one does not presently have, is infinite. There will always be someone who wants something and is willing to pay for it. Talk of "stimulating" it or increasing it is nonsensical.

    Supply-side thinking, on the other hand, is concerning oneself with the problems of producers rather than consumers. A producer by his very nature creates something that he thinks other people might want to have, and want it bad enough to trade something of value for it. The monetary/pricing system gives him the ability to compare his costs with his revenues and determine whether the venture is a success. Profits and losses communicate whether the demand for his product or service will sustain his continued production, or if he needs to move on to trying to find something else that people might want. In this way, the market becomes a process of discovery, as producers continually strive to serve their fellow human beings in the most profitable way possible.

    One way, therefore, of looking at something we call "flagging demand", is that people are no longer interested in the products and services currently available. Does it really make sense then, to attempt to "stimulate" demand? Why would we, as a government policy, try to encourage people to buy stuff they don't really want or need? Worse still, why would we take money from producers and give it to consumers in order to force-feed unwanted products and services to those consumers? This hinders or arrests the process of discovery -- without that extra cash, the producers can't afford to explore new product lines to test on the market, and are stuck trying to unload old products that the consuming public desires less and less.

    Instead, we should allow producers to keep their money, and when their sales begin to fall as the market reaches saturation, we can wait and see what new thing they will come up with to satisfy our wants and needs. Any producer who fails to move into new product lines (Detroit automakers, looking in your direction) will rightly go out of business and their assets will be bought up at auction by the next generation of producers seeking to profit by serving the wants and needs of their fellow man. As a result, all of society grows richer by having access to these new forms of wealth being produced.

    Posted by Tom, 3/17/2009 5:04:48 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...


    I am rapidly becoming convinced that every social, political, economic, and spiritual ill suffered by mankind arises from the desire to control things which are not ours to control.

    Posted by Tom, 3/17/2009 7:58:30 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Kick a man when he's down

    Obama's supposed strength of character is wearing ever thinner:

    The Obama administration is considering a plan to charge the private health insurance of veterans for treatment of service-related ailments that currently are paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs -- a potential change that has veterans’ groups outraged.

    ...and rightly so. I oppose the war, I oppose the foreign policy that uses violence as a first resort. But if we're going to pursue a foreign policy that puts soldiers in harm's way on foreign soil, it is absolutely a moral obligation to take care of them afterward. No decent president would argue otherwise, and no decent president would allow this to even come up as a trial balloon.

    It does not matter that a soldier may have been injured as a result of a past administration's policies. The nation owes that soldier care for the injuries sustained. Don't want to pay for future injuries? Change our foreign policy to one of peace and trade rather than one of violence and war. No soldiers will be injured in Iraq if no soldiers are in Iraq. Funny how that works.

    Posted by Tom, 3/17/2009 6:48:25 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    "What we learn from history is that we do not learn from history."
    --Benjamin Disraeli

    Posted by Tom, 3/17/2009 5:29:44 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    This is going to be hard

    About a month ago, Zeus started having problems walking. He's had a limp ever since his last knee surgery went awry a few years back, but this was looking like much more than a limp. His back legs and hind end wobbled all over the place, and he lurched around like he was drunk. It took a while for it to dawn on me that I was seeing something new, but as he went downhill I finally grasped it and took him to the vet a couple of days ago.

    After some discussion and an x-ray, the vet told me that Zeus has some bad arthritis in his hips and knees. We got some drugs and supplements for him to take, Previcox and glucosamine, and just over the last couple of days I believe there's been some improvement.

    No matter what I do however, I can't seem to keep my mind from wandering to where this is eventually going, and it tears me up inside. I wake up crying in the middle of the night, I can't get back to sleep, and I wear myself out dreading, anticipating, imagining the difficult choices that lay ahead of me. I torture myself trying to figure out how I'll know when it's time... when there's no more good days for him. How long does he have? A month? A year? I see his happy, laughing smile and know that I don't want to take from him any good days he might have left. And every time I think that, almost immediately afterward I imagine the day when he can no longer get up by himself, and know that the arrival of that day will mean I've waited too long.

    Oh dear God, why does this have to be so hard?

    Posted by Tom, 3/15/2009 1:48:41 AM (Permalink). 6 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Sometimes the system works

    I do love it when the courts occasionally tee off on someone in the government (or even the courts) for illogic or misconduct. A great example of this was last year's Heller decision, where Justice Scalia compared Justice Stevens to the Mad Hatter.

    This case, however, is absolutely hilarious. The appellate judges serve up a beatdown on the prosecutor that had me laughing my head off. To get the full effect, you really need to read the whole thing, but here's the knockout punch:

    We asked the government's lawyer at argument what an appropriate sanction for the prosecutor's misconduct might be. We are not permitted to reverse a judgment on the basis of a lawyer's misconduct that would not have caused a reasonable jury to acquit,... but in this case, had the government presented enough evidence to sustain a conviction, we would have reversed the judgment and ordered a new trial on the basis of the prosecutor's misconduct. That sanction is not available only because the government presented so little evidence that the defendant is entitled to an acquittal. That does not detract from the gravity of the prosecutor's misconduct and the need for an appropriate sanction. The government's appellate lawyer told us that the prosecutor's superior would give her a talking-to. We are not impressed by the suggestion.

    The sad thing is, said prosecutor is probably still on the job, serving up histrionic theater for juries and sending innocent people to prison even now.

    (hat tip, Reason)

    Posted by Tom, 3/13/2009 5:39:46 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.
    -- H. L. Mencken

    Posted by Tom, 3/13/2009 7:03:10 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Stab me with a fork

    The Democrats are already talking about ANOTHER STIMULUS. I kid you not:

    Harvard economics professor Martin Feldstein has argued a second fiscal stimulus package is likely. "It will need to be much better targeted at increasing demand in order to avoid adding more to the national debt than the rise in domestic spending," Feldstein wrote last week in the Taipei Times.


    Obama economics adviser Christine Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, hinted today that more stimulus money may be needed.

    "Beware of cutting back on stimulus too soon," Romer said Monday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. "We will need to monitor the economy closely to be sure that the private sector is back in the saddle before government takes away its crucial lifeline."

    And here:

    The assessment was offered by Mark Zandi of and Allan Sinai of Decision Economics Inc. That's significantly less than the White House has predicted. It's also far fewer than the 4.4 million jobs that have already been lost during the recession so far.

    "We are going to need more taxpayer money upfront. I think another stimulus package is a reasonable probability the way things are going," Zandi told reporters after the meeting.

    They simply will not be content until they have destroyed the economy altogether, shoveled bucketloads of cash to their cronies, and saddled the rest of us with the bill.

    Oh, and point of order: don't you mean a THIRD stimulus? Let's not forget the original George Bush monstrosity. And that's just in the past year. Let's not also forget the other stimuli from the Bush era... the ones where everybody got a check.

    Posted by Tom, 3/10/2009 5:34:45 PM (Permalink). 5 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, March 7, 2009

    Quote of the Day

    The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.
    -- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    Posted by Tom, 3/7/2009 6:28:34 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...


    Brian Doherty's recent article delving into the Objectivist themes of Rorschach's character in Watchmen sparked a thought or two...

    To be the kind of man whose highest value is to “have lived life free from compromise,” as Rorschach says, makes that man “unreasonable” in the colloquial sense—that is, you aren’t going to be able to talk them in or out of much.

    It's interesting to me that the "best" heroes, at least in my mind, are the ones that live life "free from compromise", especially when it comes to their principles. I think of characters like Superman, Leonidas, and even Malcolm Reynolds, who seems shifty on the outside, but only until you bump up against that steel-hard core.

    It's also interesting that you can use this same description for folks like Ludwig von Mises, Martin Luther, even Jesus. As Doherty says, these were people dedicated to an ideal, and were not easily swayed. They probably weren't a whole lot of fun to be around. Ayn Rand, whom Doherty primarily addresses in his article, seems like a real grouch most of the time, even in her writing.

    There are a lot of people who think that zealotry is necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't explain why those same people will look up to heroes for whom zealotry is an integral trait. I'm trying, but at this moment, I can't think of any real or imaginary "heroes" whose primary trait is the willingness to compromise, but I'm running out of fingers and toes to count the zealots. Jesus would never have had the impact on the world that He did, had He just taken the attitude of "go along to get along". I can't think of anyone important who did.

    Maybe part of what's wrong with our society these days is that there are too many people willing to just play along. Even when their principles clearly oppose something, they won't speak up about it because they don't want to rock the boat. I wonder what impact they really have on their world. I wonder what it might be doing, in the broader sense, that we teach "willingness to compromise" as one of the highest virtues to our children.

    Obviously, zealotry in itself is not enough to make one a hero. The principles one adheres to, "free from compromise", also play a role. Perhaps much like a vector, the principles create a direction, while the degree of zealotry forms a magnitude. Your principles tell us whether you are hero or villain, but your dedication to them communicates how much that should delight or alarm us.

    I don't really have a conclusion, this is all just random thinking out loud.

    Posted by Tom, 3/7/2009 5:45:10 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Quote of the Day

    Who can find a virtuous wife?
    For her worth is far above rubies.
    The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
    So he will have no lack of gain.
    She does him good and not evil
    All the days of her life.
    -- Proverbs 31:10-12

    Happy Birthday, Mrs. Curmudgeon.

    Posted by Tom, 3/6/2009 6:31:06 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Screw the tape

    No, that's not a reference to C. S. Lewis' classic work, The Screwtape Letters.

    One of the big ironies of home ownership is that you do all the things to make the place "perfect" just before you sell it to someone else. As we get ready to attempt the sale of our current home, one of the projects we decided to do was replacing the bathroom faucets, which were getting kind of nasty-looking with corrosion and whatnot. Of course, being a guy, it was necessary that my wife bring this to my attention, because I never noticed until she mentioned it.


    Anyway, as I've mentioned previously, I really hate plumbing projects. I hate having that one little drip that you can't seem to stop. This time around, I really messed with the plumber's putty, and ignored the teflon tape. I don't really know why, it just happened that way.

    Aside: it really boggles my mind that the faucets we bought say "no putty required!" on the outside of the box, and then in the instructions under "recommended tools" it says "plumber's putty".

    We puttied the faucet bases, got them stuck in place, hooked up all the drain mechanisms, and this time instead of using tape on the threads of the drain pipes and elbows, I just smushed putty into all the threads. Screwing down the caps pushes most of the putty off the threads, but what's left apparently forms a water-tight seal, because every hookup went right the first time, with no signs of any drips or anything. This compares most favorably with my experiences using teflon tape, where I've had to redo the connections half a dozen times on almost every joint.

    So that's a word of advice to all you aspiring plumbers out there: use the putty on plastic pipes. Copper pipes may be a different matter; I don't know because it didn't really come into play this time around.

    Posted by Tom, 3/5/2009 5:43:50 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    Everybody needs a little place they can hide
    Somewhere to call their own
    Don't let nobody inside
    Every now and then we all need to let go
    For some it's the doctor
    For me it's rock and roll
    For some it's a bottle
    For some it's a pill
    Some people wave the Bible, 'cause it's giving them a thrill
    Others point their finger if they don't like what they see
    If you live in a glass house, don't be throwing rocks at me
    -- Cinderella, "Shelter Me"

    Posted by Tom, 3/5/2009 3:24:02 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    I'm a horrible uncle

    A lot of people know me as the guy who can help them with this or that computer problem, the guy who deals with computers and electronics for a living, the guy who eats, drinks, and breathes technology. And that's cool.

    What a lot of people don't know is that technology compensates for my social and mental handicaps. I am functionally incapable of remembering almost anything important, especially when it has something to do with the passage of time. I can know that some event is on a given date. I can know that it is on a given day of the week. I can remember all sorts of things about the event, but -- and this is the hard part -- when the day or time of the event arrives, I have an incredible amount of trouble connecting the present with the events that coincide with it. I may have a great idea for an April Fool's joke, but I'll wake up sometime around April 10th and realize that I have to wait another year for it. I once tried to explain this to my mother, and she gave me the weirdest look, like I was some kind of alien.

    What this means in practice is that I rely on technology to remember things for me, and to tell me when that date I'm waiting for has finally arrived. So it is with birthdays, and one of the reasons I've become a fan of Facebook... it tells you when one of your friends is having a birthday.

    Nephew Oliver doesn't have a Facebook page, but his father does, and his father is set up in my "news" thingy to be a HIGH PRIORITY person. This is supposed to mean that anything he posts just leaps into my newsfeed, so that I can be instantly notified of any and all important goings-on with the O-Dawg. Thus I was surprised to learn last night that O-Dawg's birthday had come and gone, and I completely missed it. Spaced it. No gift, no card, no little note. Uncle Tom sucks.

    I'd like to blame it on Facebook, because I've actually been watching my newsfeed for stuff about my brother. I figured that he wasn't showing up because he was extraordinarily busy at work, and I didn't want to pester him. Of course, after the conversation last night, I went to his Facebook page, and there was all sorts of stuff including pictures of Oliver's birthday party, him riding around on his tricycle, and so forth.

    I want to kill Facebook. I want to grab Mark Zuckerberg by the ears and scream into his face and say "this is why smart companies don't hire Computer Science graduates like you! You don't know how to freaking PROGRAM! That thing was SUPPOSED to tell me when Oliver's birthday came up, and instead all I got was a bunch of much less important stuff! It's nice that my one buddy is listening to the new U2 album, but I'm sure even he would agree that I didn't need to know that as much as I needed to know about Oliver's birthday! Find something useful to do, something more in your skillset, like cleaning toilets!" ...and then there would be a lot of wordless snarling and punching.

    Much as it would make me feel a little better to beat the crap out of Zuckerberg, the fact remains that it's my responsibility to remember Oliver's birthday, and to find a technology that actually does the job it advertises. I should know that you never trust new tech with anything important, and Facebook is certainly as new to me as "functional programming" must be to Zuckerberg and company. So now I'm storing it in my iPhone, because so far it has been the greatest device ever made for remembering important stuff.

    I'm sorry O-Dawg. Uncle Tom really does love you, he's just retarded.

    Posted by Tom, 3/3/2009 7:06:17 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, March 1, 2009

    Quote of the Day

    I have a new roommate from Austria named Glock. He's pretty quiet but I wouldn't mess with him. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.
    --"fg12351", a message board user

    Posted by Tom, 3/1/2009 8:18:41 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    "Over a thousand rounds of ammunition"

    One of the things that really bugs most gun owners about the media is their use of "scare phrases" to make the public think that something is unusual or sinister. One of these phrases is when the cops raid someone's house, recover a bunch of guns (usually 5 or less) and "over a thousand rounds of ammunition".

    As I was straightening up my office today, I just happened to notice that I have "over a thousand rounds of ammunition" hanging around, and I thought I'd take a picture to make a point:

    The Dr. Pepper bottle is there for scale. A thousand rounds of ammunition, it turns out, is not actually all that much. This is just what I've bought casually, trying to make sure I've got something to shoot if I want to go to the range and Wal Mart is sold out (as it is a lot these days). A thousand rounds of ammunition is also very likely for anyone who owns and likes to shoot more than one gun. 50 rounds of .38 SPL here, 100 rounds of .45 ACP there, and a couple bricks of .22 LR, and you've got yourself an "arsenal" that "clearly communicates" your desire to take on the government, Red Dawn-style (holy crap, they're remaking it!).

    Puh-leeze. This is like saying that anyone with half a dozen computers or computer-style devices in their house (guilty) is clearly trying to break into the supercomputers at NORAD and sell secrets to the Russkies. Heck, my mother's obsession with knitting must have been part of a sinister conspiracy to bring down the American textile industry.

    A far more reasonable explanation is that folks are just hobbyists or enthusiasts, doing and collecting the stuff that they enjoy, and it bears only a tangental relationship to anything they might have done to attract the attention of the po-po. Of course, that attitude wouldn't sell any papers.

    Posted by Tom, 3/1/2009 8:01:13 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    House Hunt

    Well, yesterday we saw the real dream house. I won't say it's perfect, but it's a reasonable facsimile thereof. It's got plenty of spare bedrooms (arranged intelligently for once), lots of updating, an awesome walk-out basement that's completely finished, a workshop, dog fence, and an extremely private setting. The main issue is the price, though it puts all comparably-priced properties to shame. We're just not sure we want to use up that much of our discretionary cash every month.

    Part of the reason is that our present house payment sits at around 13% of our income. We're used to spending very little for housing. Any move into another place -- one that has what we want -- is necessarily going to increase that percentage. The question is, how much are we willing to let it increase?

    Today's lookie-loo includes another very promising house. The main trade-offs on paper are a workshop gym instead of a basement gym, a few less trees in the yard, and a 20 minute commute instead of a 10 minute commute, in exchange for about 30% off the price.

    Posted by Tom, 3/1/2009 7:27:28 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...