Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

At last count, I had a grand total of 5 readers, including myself. Needless to say, I am very thankful for each and every one of you, both as readers and as friends.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Idiot Zookeepers

I get that checking the sex of a polar bear isn't quite as straightforward as checking the sex of, say, a puppy.

But even so, if you're a zoo buying a polar bear for the explicit purpose of mating it with a female bear that you already own, wouldn't you want to, you know, check to make sure you're buying a male?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More Nonsense on Gay "Marriage"

All this seems pretty reasonable, right? So where does the nonsense come in? Simple: if you're going to make the separate-but-equal argument in favor of 'separate', you've got to have the 'equal' part as its complement. ____ makes it sound like fully equal civil unions are available to anyone who wants them, gay or straight, which is laughably untrue for most of the country.

In the US, there remain 9 states that haven't outright banned gay marriage and offer either full marriage or some kind of equivalent. But those marriage/union rights didn't just spring into existence, they were legislated. Of the 41 states that have banned gay marriage, only 2 offer civil unions. If you're in the other 39, you're out of luck. You can move, permanently, to another state, or you suck it up. That's it. The only other option available would be to specifically legislate some kind of civil union contract, but even there we have problems. Because of those 36 states, 19 of them don't just ban marriage, they explicitly ban civil unions as well. Take my very own state of Virginia:
Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.
In other words: no gay marriage, no civil unions, and no private legal contracts that seek to approximate the benefits of marriage. Basically, if you're gay, you're persona non-grata.

So while I sympathize with both the separate-but-equal and get-government-out-of-marriage arguments, you just can't argue that there are other options available to most Americans. Indeed, more Americans live in a state that actively prevents any kind of gay civil union than live in a state where civil unions or marriage is available. You can call that many things, but you can't call it equal.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top Chef Week 2

And it's week 2! Last week saw two young chefs go home on the first episode; one for not being able to dice apples quickly enough, one for doing a pretty crappy Chinese dish.

And this week? Well, let's see!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Still No Rain

A few more clouds, but still no rain. Grrrrr.....

Give Lieberman the Boot

For the record, I agree 100% completely with Rachel Maddow on what Joe Lieberman's fate should be. You should really watch the whole thing, but in case you aren't interested, here's the summary:

1) In the past 2 years, while his counterpart Rep Waxman in the House was investigating everything from DOJ torture memos to FEMA's Katrina plans to secret White House email accounts, Lieberman didn't hold a single hearing. Ever. Not one. And all of a sudden, now that Obama's going to be president, keeping this committee chair is the most important thing in the world to Lieberman, and it's "unacceptable" that he might have to chair a different committee. Vendetta, anyone?

2) Lieberman isn't just a 'moderate' Democrat. He's a Democrat who campaigned for John McCain, gave a prime time address at the Republican National Convention trashing Obama, campaigned for down ticket Republicans, and has been giving interviews left and right saying he "fears for the country's future" and that it's a "legitimate question" to ask if Obama's a Marxist. You just don't do that and get to keep a cushy and much-sought-after committee chairmanship.

3) Lieberman just needs a good kick in the pants. Let him whine if he wants to about how unfair it all is, the man needs to understand that there are consequences to his actions and that he can't just go around saying whatever he wants to and still stay in good standing with his party. I know he votes with the Dems on most issues. But on Iraq, Iran, and foreign policy in general, he votes with the GOP. And he doesn't just vote with them, he goes out of his way to use his reputation to explain to the world why the Democrats are weak and yellow-bellied and how they can't be trusted with the future of the country and how the GOP needs to be in charge so all our children won't die. The man just needs to be shown the door.

Weather Woes

I swear, no matter where I move, the weather adjusts itself so that rain falls everywhere but where I live. Here's weather.com's latest radar map of the US, which shows where the storm is ... and isn't.Notice any place in particular that's surrounded by rain on all sides, but stubbornly remains dry itself?

Harumph, I say!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top Chef Season 5 Blogging!

Top Chef is back for season #5! Let the merriment commence!

Ok, seriously, I do like this show, not because I want to eat the food, but because I want to be able to cook food like all these people do. I'm a decent cook & baker, but these people are freakin awesome, and their ability to take nothing but raw ingredients turn it into a culinary masterpiece using only a few knives and the ideas in their head is one that I wish I had.

This season the show takes place New York City, and features a pretty eccentric bunch of characters. I have to be honest here: the show is fundamentally a cooking competition, and I'm starting to worry that the Top Chef producers are moving away from that in favor of pure sensationalism. Case in point: the very first quick-fire challenge of the series eliminated a competitor before they even got into the kitchen.

First, the chefs were asked to peel a bunch of apples using only a paring knife in a time trial. I ask you, what exactly does it say about someone's cooking skills that they're able to peel a bunch of apples 5 seconds quicker than their peers, using a technique that no one uses at all anymore and that they'll never use again in their entire careers?

Second, the losers of the peeling had to finely dice their apples, again in a timed trial. Dicing is a fundamental knife skill, but again, does being a second or two faster than someone else really tell you all that much?

Finally, after the 17 were pared (haha, get it?) down to 5, they were finally allowed to cook. And one poor girl who made a salad got the boot, and was sent home about an hour after she arrived. That's got to be a downer.

Like I said, sensationalism. Anyway, there are certainly some interesting characters this time around. Among the more interesting ones:

Carla.
Imagine a 44 year-old cross between a southern grandma who does southern comfort and a hippie karma queen who actually used the words "vibe" and "karma" as part of her working vocabulary.










Jeff
Jeff is very good looking. And he knows it. Scratch that, he doesn't just know it, he's internalized it as an a priori fundamental truth of the universe. During the opening credits he actually winks at the camera. Before he goes out into his restaurant, he always asks a server whether his hair's ok (seriously, he does that, he said so, I'm not making it up.)




Patrick
One of the three openly gay contestants on this season's show. Patrick's so young that he's still in school at CIA, and also pretty cute. Alas, he used gummy black bean noodles to make his Chinatown dish, and was sent home after the first elimination challenge. Pity, he seemed nice.





Fabio
His name is Fabio, what more need I say? Well, I'll tell you what more I need say: he's personal chef to William Shatner!! Hence the picture! Beam me up, Fabio! KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

Still Having Computer Problems

In case you're wondering, my problems with my personal laptop are continuing, and getting increasingly more frustrating. The current issue I'm dealing with is anytime InstallShield Wizard comes up, the computer crashes and restarts. Since InstallShield Wizard is used to install just about everything, I'm having a difficult time repopulating my computer with all the programs I want on it.

I'm increasingly considering just trashing the damn thing and buying a new one.

Dumb Markets

The single best description of stock market analysis I've ever read was from Dave Barry. I can't find the original, but it went something like this:
Analyst #1: Well, the market went up or down today, based on whether it went up or down.
Analyst #2: Will this trend continue?
Analyst #1: It's too soon to tell.
It never ceases to amaze me how often random fluctuations get mistaken for mass rallying or sell-offs.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

GRAH!!

I had an absolutely awesome afternoon. And then I had a not so absolutely awesome rest of the evening.

As I was walking back from Godfrey's, my phone battery died. Normally I'd just plug it in again, but my sister was down this weekend, and her phone died, so I let her borrow it for a day. She used it to charge her phone, and left it with Todd when she left ... but Todd's off visiting one of our supplier sites, and my charger is trapped in his apartment. Which is all to say that my phone is currently a pretty piece of plastic and silicon, and will remain so until Todd comes back. Grah!

Also, my personal computer died this weekend. It'd been acting strangely, randomly shutting down, blue screening, etc. I chalked it up to overheating (which it's prone to doing), and would just restart it. That worked until Saturday morning, when it stopped booting and just showed a message about the registry file \SystemRoot\System32\Config\Software being corrupt. I tried safe mode, tried last usable configuration, tried everything I could think of, but it just wouldn't start.

I got onto my work laptop, searched online, and found a lot of sites that told you how to deal with the problem. I tried to restore the registry files via the System Recovery Setup screen, but the backup files weren't created, so no dice. Then I searched through all my old files and boxes, and found (what I thought to be) the WindowsXP disc that came with the laptop, and tried to do a repair install. Alas, the repair option wasn't accessible. I searched and searched through dozens of forums, and always came up with the same answer: if those two options didn't work the only option left was a clean wipe and reinstallation. Grah!!

(Asside: I've never been technologically savvy. I know I'm a nerd and it's required and all, but honestly I couldn't set up a home network to save my life. It's always frustrated me to some degree, but this entire episode really served to frustrate me more and more with my lack of computer skills. So that's the backdrop to all of this.)

I wasn't happy about doing a clean wipe and then reinstalling, but it wasn't quite as bad when I thought about it. Most of my media is on my iPod, and I can just resynch that later. I'd lose some pictures of Lucy, but she'll be around for a while and I'm sure she'll do plenty of funny things in the years ahead. I'd lose some links, but I found the pages once, I can find them again. The biggest worry I have is my finances on MS Money and the word doc that has all my online sign-ons and passwords. (Yes, I know it's not recommended to store that stuff. But if they don't want us to store it, then they shouldn't make every site have different requirements on what your username and password can be. We're human beings, not filing cabinets. We can't remember 20+ different usernames and passwords and which sites they all belong to.)

So, I started the install. Took about 40 minutes, and then my screen filled up with the most dumbed-down worthless version of XP in existence. No media players, no MS Office, no network drivers, no nothing. The only thing on it were games, and an offer to sign up for MSN's online portal. "Wait, this isn't right!", I thought to myself. "Where's all the stuff that's supposed to come with it?" Of course it won't have everything, but I KNOW it at least came with MS Office! So, I start looking through boxes again, this time much more thoroughly, and between two manual pages I find another XP disk.

And I come to a horrible realization.

The version of XP that I'd just installed was not the version that came with my laptop. Instead, it was the stand-alone version that my parents had gotten me for Christmas 5 years ago when I was a sophomore at college to replace my old computer's ailing Windows ME. I'd just wiped my laptop and reinstalled a 5 years old version of XP, with absolutely no utility at all. GRAH!!!

So I pop in the newer disk, thinking that I could just do the whole thing over again, wipe it all, etc. And what should pop up, but the repair option that would've let me fix it all! Of course, at that point it was completely useless, since I'd already reformatted everything, and it's gone forever. GRAH!!!!

I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I'd already accepted losing everything and that really that wasn't so bad, and continued with the install. Except something was popping up about the drive already being partitioned, and that it was a very bad idea to install more than one OS on a single partition. Well, couldn't I just remove the partition? Nope! Apparently you can't reinstall Windows from Windows, since the partition hosting the installation can't be removed, or something like that. GRAH!!!!!

Rather than just frustrating myself more, I'm not going to do anything more tonight and just tackle it tomorrow. *sigh, maybe I'll throw it out a window or something.

More to Come...

More pictures and explanation to come. Sufficed to say, I had an awesome Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama, 44th President of the United States

With the polls closed in California, Oregon, and Washington, Barack Obama is now the 44th President Elect of the United States.

Elation. Adrenaline. Exhaustion.

Going to bed.

YES WE DID!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Fisking the Cornerites #1

As the prospect of an Obama presidency gets closer and closer to reality, we've seen the writers over at The Corner get increasingly shrill and excitable. They can't quite seem to accept that America might actually elect someone who represents such a stinging rebuke to their conservative philosophy, and so they start inventing more and more fantastic reasons that explain it all. And today's no exception, with a couple doozies so big that they each warrant their own fisking. We start with editor K-Lo, explaining why people who blame Palin do so at their own 'peril'. K-Lo starts thusly:
In the final week of the presidential election, the hot political storyline centered on how the maverick hockey mom, also known as Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, is really a “rogue,” a “diva,” and even, Lord help us, a “whack job.”
It should be noted that none of those descriptions came from a Democratic source. One came from a professional news commentator who's supposed to be objective; the other two came from internal McCain campaign sources. So to the extent that people are calling her names, it's the people who have been spending the most time with her and are supposed to be her alllies.
She’s gone “off message,” “McCain sources” complain.
Off message? Off message! That’s only something to complain about if you want Palin’s running mate to lose.
Hang onto that last sentence, because we're going to come back to it. K-Lo writes a few more sentences about how McCain's campaign hasn't exactly been stellar, and then a few about how much of what Palin says 'off message' actually resonates, particularly Palin's nationally televised denouncement of robo-calls.
Why shouldn’t she say that robocalls are irritating? Ever get one? Conservative friends of mine who have recently received such calls from Michelle Obama appreciated Palin’s honesty. Even while the Republican presidential campaign defends the use of automated telephone messages, Palin’s remarks were not only honest but smart politics. McCain sources complain at their own peril.
Ok. Let's say you go to a rally and hear Palin say that robo-calls are terrible. It resonates. You leave the rally feeling great about McCain-Palin. You get home, push the button on your answering machine and hear ... a robo-call from the McCain-Palin campaign. If you're like most voters, this won't exactly do wonders for your feelings about the Republican ticket. That's why the McCain campaign was angry. Palin wasn't off message, she was contra message; ie - explicitly denouncing, in no uncertain terms, the very tactic McCain was using at that very moment, and likely lowering McCain's chances of winning. What was that quote K-Lo just had about the complainers only wanting McCain not to win?
The motivation, presumably, of whoever is complaining to the press lies in getting a head start on recriminations. Someone, operating under the assumption that McCain-Palin will end up a losing ticket, is aiming to get in front of the pack by making the GOP’s first female vice-presidential contender a scapegoat.
Probably. It's probably also not a coincidence that those people are all blaming Palin. Especially since poll after poll shows her to be the reason many people won't vote for McCain
.“And it’s my own jacket,” Palin said about the cream-colored blazer she recently wore, in the wake of the Republican National Committee’s much-reported efforts to spruce up the candidate’s wardrobe. That story didn’t help her or the campaign, and she knows it.
No, it certinaly didn't help at all. Like most things that don't help a campaign, there's a reason for that.
It was a silly distraction in some ways — only to get sillier when it started a fight on The View after co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck appeared with Palin at a weekend rally. But it also indicated the direction the blame game might head should the Republicans lose the presidential election. And in this way, the diva story should serve as a cautionary note.
There are all sorts of reasons not to blame Palin for the down-to-the-wire nature of this close election, but to thank her.
So, after listing a bunch of reasons that Palin was directly or indirectly responsible for some bad press, K-Lo's conclusion is that Palin is the only thing keeping McCain afloat. Umm... ok.
She has, by McCain’s own admission, energized the campaign.
And also energized hoards of people against it.
She has presented America with an entirely new type of feminism, one that conservative women and the Catholic Church can finally understand and identify with. She should not be faulted for providing the campaign and the election with a breath of fresh air.
That breath of fresh air last about 30 seconds, until people started looking at her actual record, and found it wanting. She may have been a boon to far-right social conservatives like K-Lo, but most people saw a woman who didn't know anything about national issues, thought that was ok, and tried to bluff her way past it all by saying whatever she felt like saying, regardless of whether it had any relationship to reality.
She’s not perfect, but who among us is? If the McCain campaign tries to make her responsible for any defeat or close call, Republicans ought to repudiate such tawdry efforts with due haste. In many ways, Sarah Palin is a step in the right direction. Don’t you dare blame her.
"In many ways, Sarah Palin is a step in the right direction." Wow. Just ... wow.