Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reading habits: to finish or not to finish

Matrimony was a book club book.
What do you all do when you are in the middle of a book you're not enjoying and you doubt it's going to improve.  Do you bag it and move on, risking that you'll miss out on a good ending? Or do you believe in sticking with it to the end because you're not a quitter or because sticking with it has paid off enough in the past that you have a reasonable expectation of payoff?
We have such a limited amount of time for book reading.  I'm guessing I average a paltry two books per month.  I plan to read until I'm 85 (strictly rocking and looking out the window for the final 15 years) and I'm 44 now.  41 years X 24 books = 984 books.  It's a puny number given the gazillions of books available.
By the way, 984 books at 1.5 inches each would fill 123 linear feet of shelf space.

Friday, April 11, 2008

New poll -->

Sliced over Chopped 3-1. Explanation from someone who knows to follow.

Great news for ExxonMobil Shareholders

From today's Dallas Morning News:

"Exxon Mobil Corp said Thursday it raised chief executive Rex Tillerson's compensation by 29 percent (my emphasis added) last year to $16.7 million. Mr. Tillerson's salary rose 17 percent (my emphasis added) to $1.75 million and his bonus increased 20 percent (my emphasis added) to $3.36 million, the Irving-based company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Exxon Mobil shares fell 15 cents (my emphasis added) to $89.55."

Yep, it was such good news that the stock value went down.

Added note #1: I have attended 3 EM shareholders meetings and at all 3, I never heard anyone speak positively about executive compensation. All speakers on that subject were opposed to the high increases.

Added note #2: One of my favorite memories of my 20+ years working at Exxon/ExxonMobil was from the early 90's. My boss called me in to tell me about getting a raise. Normally, when you got a raise, you were told a percentage, such as..."you got a x-percent increase effective whenever." This time, I was given a $ figure. I asked him, "well, what percentage is that?". That was important because the higher rated performance-wise you were, the higher percentage you got. He got a bit uncomfortable before telling me it was "about 3%". That was one of the lowest raises I had ever gotten, even though for that performance period, I wasn't rated low. I voiced some displeasure about this and his response was this....

"Well, between you and me, 3% is one of the highest I've seen this year. Really, you should be happy with that percentage. Besides, (name of the President of Exxon Co USA) 'only' got a 3% raise himself."

I'm not sure how he knew how much the President of Exxon USA got, but I really doubted that it "was only 3%". My reply to him was somehow I didn't feel all that happy because even I could figure out that 3% of my salary was a whole lot less than 3% of the President of EUSA's. He didn't think that was too funny.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Re: Re: Googlegangers

When I was living in Houston, I came home one day to find an envelope taped to my front door. It was from a Constable (some type of law enforcement) asking me to come by the nearest station. I had no idea what they wanted (the note wasn't specific) and went. Upon arrival, I was asked several questions: name, address, birthday, approx height. I kept asking them why they were asking me these things. Finally, they asked me if I had ever been to a certain town between Galveston and Beaumont (I don't recall the name, but I had never been there). I told them I knew of the place, but had never been there. Again, I asked why they were asking me these things. They eventually told me that a women from this town was claiming that I was the father of her child, Lakeshia. I said, ah no, I'm not. Again, they asked me my name, etc. I tried to explain that I have a pretty common name and they obviously had me mixed up with someone. Besides, I told them, how many males with my name did they imagine lived in Houston? We kept going back and forth before I figured out they were asking me everything related to a drivers license. And there was one major thing that they hadn't asked, because it isn't listed on a drivers license - race. So I asked the officer, what was the race of the person they were looking for? He gave me a look that told me it was something he hadn't even thought about. There was a older secretary type lady working nearby, who happened to be African-American. She was chuckling while the officer and I were having this conversation. I finally told him that based upon the name of the child, and of the mother whose name was of a similar vein, that I thought they might want to add race as a filter to narrow their search. The older lady started laughing and said something to the effect of.... "well, maybe you are one of those Michael Jackson looking types." The officer, after he stopped laughing, agreed with me and let me go home....

Strangely, about a year later, I got a notice in the mail from the State of Texas notifying me that I was being sought for failure to pay child support. Seems the same women had had another child, named a variation of Lakeshia, and "I" was named as the father. It took several calls the the State Attorney's office to get it all straightened out.

And for a couple of years after these incidents, my parents would give me a Father's Day card from my 2 "daughters".

Looming Decrepitude

While hiking Saturday and taking those pics after six hours of painting at the Lions Camp, I learned something about me more than a little disheartening. Of course hiking uphill is difficult; it's harder to go uphill whether one is 18 or 48.

The disheartening part was that for the very first time going downhill hurt my knees.

BBQ Survey

To bastardize VP Mondale: Where's the pork?

Re: Gangers

Many, many guys have my actual name but I've never had an incident with any of them.

The only time I had an issue was a big credit problem when I moved to Denver. A woman there with the female variant of my first name (which I do not use except the first initial when I'm trying to make my very plain name seem more lawyerly...I'm very bitter about this; my brother got the great name) and the same last name had terrible credit and an SSN very close to mine. It took me months to convince HER creditors that we were two different people and get my credit repaired.

Re: Zenni

Am planning to test this soon. Will get a new scrip this weekend, complete with the measurements (temple to temple, pupil center to pupil center, and temple arm length...whatever that is) and order a pair. Will keep you posted on results.

Re: Zenni

I've looked at the site and but for your eyewitness testimony I would have said it's too good to be true. Questions: You mention "head width;" does that translate to "frame width" on the specs? If so, how much play between the two dimensions can there be? Is "temple arm length" not important?

Re: TIZA school

KSTP reports: A Star Tribune newspaper column [Kersten's] has prompted a state investigation into a charter school [TIZA, the alleged Islamic school in Minneapolis].

Re: Googlegangers

I've got two doppelganger stories:

When I was in high school, my mom received a call from a teacher at my former grade school who told her "Stephanie" was having a problem with wetting her pants. My mom was baffled first as to why I was spending time during the day at the grade school, and second as to why she herself hadn't noticed the pants-wetting problem. Eventually they figured out the teacher had called the mother of the wrong Stephanie who shared my last name.

Then, in the early 90's, I received many calls from young men who wanted to know if I was the Stephanie X they'd met at a bar. (No, I wasn't.) I could never understand how this happened exactly. Was this woman someone who actually shared my name and did she give out her full name to strange gentlemen in bars, telling them to look her number up in the phone book, not realizing that they might have trouble finding her? Or was she giving out a fake name, and if so why not also give out a fake number unrelated to the name? Or was she giving out my name and number as a prank on me? Don't know, but it stopped eventually, and I wondered whether that meant she'd found love and settled down.


discussed here. It occurs to me that Scooter, LJ, and Stephanie must have many. Any interesting stories?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Candidates positions on DOMA

Clinton calls for revision of DOMA: I have long been on record supporting equality in benefits and eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbians. I support repealing the provision of DOMA that may prohibit the federal government from providing benefits to people in states that recognize same sex marriage. I strongly support ensuring people in stable, long-term same sex relationships have full equality of benefits, rights, and responsibilities.

Obama calls for complete repeal of DOMA: Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.

McCain on a US Constitution amendment and DOMA in 2004: Mr. President, I think the Defense of Marriage Act represents the quintessentially federalist and Republican approach to this issue. The constitutional amendment we are debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans.

Glassy Eyes

Was just talking to one of the lawyers here sporting a new pair of glasses and lamenting how last Friday I had fallen asleep wearing my way too expensive Nike glasses, bending the heck out of them.

He commented that they cost him $45.00. He also said he has about 5 pair. I wanted to confirm they were prescription and he said yes.

He whined that when he gets all the non-glare coatings, etc, the glasses might run as high as $75.

Where exactly do you get them?



Zenni. I’ll send you the link to the Glassy Eyes website that has about four or five different outfits but I’ve only used Zenni. The only thing you have to be careful about is ordering the right size. You need to know your measurements. Width of head, and sweet spot to sweet spot (distance between pupils).

Heck, at $45 a pair I’ll order five different sizes of the same pair until I get it right.


I can't recall. Did it get overturned as violative of the full faith and credit clause?


Ketchup on hamburgers: Yes and No tied at 2; Sometimes got 1.

Platforms and gay marriage and state rights

Sandwich eating for me. In a comment below I said my party has been pretty consistent about not leaving non-discrimination to the states. But our national party platform does indeed leave it to the states to decide about gay "marriage", though seeking equal treatment:

We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal
responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families. In our country, marriage has been defined at the state level for 200 years, and we believe it should continue to be defined there. We repudiate President Bush's divisive effort to politicize the Constitution by pursuing a "Federal Marriage Amendment."

In Minnesota, the DFL does not take any position on whether civil rights safeguards for sexual orientation should be state or federal or both, simply stating:
We Oppose:
Discrimination against any person on the basis of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual or affectional orientation, HIV status, marital or homemaker status, disability or age.

The Texas Democratic Platform does not reference sexual orientation specifically but says this:
Democrats believe our Constitution is intended to prohibit discrimination in all forms; Republicans wish to make it a tool of discrimination.

I can't figure out whether they mean state or federal Constitution, so I can't tell whether Texas Dems see this as a federal or state issue.

[Update:  added links for the party platforms]

Re: Islamic school in Minneapolis

As Kersten herself notes: "The ACLU of Minnesota has launched an investigation of TIZA, and the Minnesota Department of Education has also begun a review."

If the allegations are true, the school will be shut down or reformed.

No one -- not taxpayers, Dept of Education, lawmakers, liberals -- no one wants taxpayer money to fund religious schools (or schools in violation of constitutional rights w/r/t religious practices) and we're not interested in exceptions for Muslim schools over Christian schools. Kersten performs a service in bringing the school's activities into the light, if accurate. She needn't write as if no one but her cares.

Oh, and big surprise: the Department of Education lacks the "tools" (i.e $$$) to properly oversee the schools.

Taxpayers in Minnesota supporting religious school

This is an outrage! Teaching Christianity in a charter school funded by taxpayers! Where's the ACLU? Where's the DFL? Where are the outraged libs?

Oh. It's not Christians, it's Muslims. Never mind. Nothing to see here.


on verbal gaffes and labeling Rethug candidates.

"And now it begins with McCain. Opening gambit: Out of Touch (Old), with band striking up the first cautious notes of 'Crazy' and 'Stupid' as well."


Thriller set in a futuristic theme park. I'd read that someone I like (can't remember who) liked Child.* Meh.
*Not to be confused with Lee Child, who writes the Jack Reacher novels, which are darn good.

Tunnel of Fudge

"Arguably the most famous recipe ever to originate in a cooking contest is Tunnel of Fudge Cake, entered in the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off by Houstonian Ella Rita Helfrich. It 'made a diminutive Houston mother of five a celebrity, changed the fortunes of a small company in Minneapolis (Nordic Ware) and made a little-known European pan (the Bundt pan) a mainstay of nearly every American kitchen.'" Recipe for TOF plus other prize winners from Houston here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Republican Party platforms on civil unions

Scooter, I appreciate your position on the mixing and matching of condiments (as well as equal opportunity and affirmative action), but here's what the 2006 State Texas Republican Platform has to say on the subject of gay marriage and civil unions:

We further call on Congress to pass and the state legislatures to ratify a marriage amendment declaring that marriage in the United States shall consist of and be recognized only as the union of a natural man and a natural woman. Neither the United States nor any state shall recognize or grant to any unmarried person the legal rights or status of a spouse. We oppose the recognition of and granting of benefits to people who represent themselves as domestic partners without being legally married.

Not only do Texas Republicans want to prevent gay people in Texas from getting married or even unioned, they demand that other states refuse to recognize civil unions. With this, they've ceded the right to claim to be the party defending states' rights.

The 2004 National Republican Party Platform puts it this way:
We further believe that legal recognition and the accompanying benefits afforded couples should be preserved for that unique and special union of one man and one woman which has historically been called marriage. [skip] Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country, and anything less than a Constitutional amendment, passed by the Congress and ratified by the states, is vulnerable to being overturned by activist judges. On a matter of such importance, the voice of the people must be heard. The Constitutional amendment process guarantees that the final decision will rest with the American people and their elected representatives.

So at the national level too, Republicans have ceded the right to claim to be the party defending states' rights.

It's probably the case that no one agrees with everything in the party platform of the party they favor, so I don't expect Scooter or Michael to defend the nonsense in these planks, either on the merits of gay marriage or on the states' rights hypocrisy. But maybe you could drop a line to your party leaders and let them know that's not where you're at, so that eventually your party finds its way to the righteous side of this issue and we can let the gay people get married in all of the states.

Amazon Kindle?

Anyone thinking about these? I noticed today about a 50% discount for downloads as opposed to dead tree versions of books at Amazon.

Re: Under the Banner

Michael loaned me Under the Banner so long ago he's probably forgotten. I'll move it up the list.

MPL Downloads

Wow. That would be quite the boon to me if Austin (which fancies itself to be on the cutting edge) follows suit.

Goofus and Gallant

I wonder if my mom is still storing my collection of Highlights. Mom, are you reading this? Click on Comments. (She keeps saying she's going to look at SSJ, but she's a busy person and I think she didn't find our topics compelling the one time she got around to it.)

I see Highlights is still published, and still features Goofus and Gallant: "Goofus and Gallant helps children judge their own conduct for themselves through fun-filled adventures."

Re: Popular

From an OU Ph.D. no less, if that is not somehow oxymoronic. Reminds me of the two guys in that kids magazine, what was that called? Ah, Highlights. [Update, Stephanie beat me with the link.] And the guys were called...

Goofus and Gallant.

Download audio books from Minneapolis Public Library

I'm not an audio-book listener, but I noticed this and pass it on to those of you who are. (Maybe this is standard audio book practice, but it was news to me.)

Minneapolis Library patrons can download free audio books, i.e. don't have to make a trip to the library to check out the CD. From the library's web site:

With the ability to download books from the web through Minneapolis Public Library’s website, commuters can find new and different content 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for their portable listening devices.

Hundreds of titles are narrated by professional actors with years of stage and screen experience and can be downloaded with either radio-quality or CD-quality files. You can listen on any desktop, laptop or portable device supporting Windows Media Player version 9 and above. Users can also transfer favorite titles to a wide range of portable devices, including portable music players, portable media centers, Pocket PCs and even some smartphone devices.

In a few seconds of Googling, I see that lots of libraries offer an audio book download option, but you must first be a patron of theirs. This creates a geographical restriction on what could otherwise be non-geographically-restricted dissemination of audio books.

But I also see that lots of paid audiobook downloads are dirt cheap, so maybe getting them free isn't that big a deal.

Are you popular?

Let's watch and see what makes people like one person and not another:

From Coronet Films (1947). Public domain.

More Evidence....

of Dr. Sowell's crush here:

Has anyone actually seen Rachael Ray measure out the ingredients she puts into her cooking, instead of using a pinch of this and a handful of that?

and here:

If Rachael Ray had been black, there are bookstores where her cookbook would not be displayed in the same section with all the other cookbooks. It would be displayed off in a special section for black authors.

This means that many people who were looking for cookbooks would not even see Rachael Ray's cookbook, much less buy it.

Dr. Sowell's Crush?

I think he has one on Rachael Ray. This is the second or third time he's mentioned her in a column:

Rachael Ray is showing up in so many places on various television programs, on magazine covers, on boxes of crackers that the question must be asked: Are we sure that she is not twins, or perhaps triplets.

Next stop Willoughby!

Here. Seasons 1 and 2 of The Twilight Zone, as well as Star Trek (which I think Scooter noted some time back) and other stuff.

Ron Paul in Minnesota

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Ron Paul's supporters in Minnesota are having success nabbing GOP delegates:

Over the weekend, they captured six of a dozen GOP national convention delegates elected at congressional district meetings. The rebellion has left local party officials crying foul, even as state leaders downplay the importance of the unexpected result.


In Minnesota, 38 Republican delegates to the national convention are selected in a multi-tier process that starts with precinct caucuses and ends with the state convention. Delegates have been selected in six of the state's eight congressional districts, with Paul supporters winning seven of the 24 seats chosen to date. Six more delegates will be selected in the remaining two districts, and the rest will be chosen at the state party convention next month.

They hope to get a speaking gig for Paul at the Convention in St. Paul.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Earmarks go soft

NYTimes reports today on "soft" earmarks.

But it turns out lawmakers can still secretly direct billions of dollars to favored organizations by making vague requests rather than issuing explicit instructions to government agencies in committee reports and spending bills. That seeming courtesy is the difference between “soft earmarks” and the more insistent “hard earmarks.
In considering lawmakers’ spending requests, some committees in recent years have switched hard earmarks to soft ones, saying it gives agencies more flexibility. Critics, including Mr. Flake, suggest it is being done to avoid scrutiny.

“With the efforts to shine more light on the earmarking process,” he said, “I am concerned that we might see increasingly creative ways to steer funding to recipients of funding that members of Congress want to see it go to.”

So it might be the case that earmarks are not shrinking under the Democratically controlled (sort of) Congress since 2006. Nevertheless, we must keep earmarks in perspective: hard earmarks account for something in the neighborhood of 1% of the federal budget (very roughly $20 billion in a $3 trillion budget). The Times piece finds $3 billion in soft earmarks in one of 13 appropriations bill. So for guessing purposes, let's say there's $40 billion in soft earmarks on top of the $20 billion in hard earmarks; that amounts to something in the neighborhood of 3% of the federal budget.

What I don't understand about earmarks is why they're funded as earmarks. I mean, why wouldn't Congress want to open all these expenditures to bidding? Is it because it's slow and labor-intensive (i.e. costly) to oversee the bidding? or is it really all about funneling money to friends and political supporters?

Re: Common Ground?

Doubtful, unless you just mean opposition to her as the VP. I suspect our reasons for dislike are rather different. Unlike LJ, I thought she was stellar as NSA and don't yet see the "failed" Iraqi policy.

My beef is with her having sold out at State. To be fair though, I must assume she has done so at the instruction, or at least tacit approval of her boss.

Compound fracture (or Helter Skelter Shelter)

Manson had a compound, though not in TX.

Re: Condi

You are correct Stephanie, I have recently, and often, spoken about my loathing of Condi. She was a disaster as NSA and she isn't exactly setting the world on fire as SOS. And let's be honest about why she would even be considered as VP - and I'll apologize up front for seeming to be insensitive - she would be chosen for her skin color. To offset the black vote for Obama. And, if by some miracle Hillary would be on the ticket (in either spot), to offset the female vote.

What exactly are her qualifications? Just because you serve in gov't doesn't mean you are good at it. I think she would be to much of a direct link to GWB and his failed Iraq policy She would have to spend too much time trying to explain those decisions and what happened in the past than to talk about what would happen in the future with a McCain administration. McCain seems to ( I think) have different ideas about Iraq, the Middle East, "stress" interrogation techniques than the GWB administration and I can't see how Condi could come across as sincere if she campaigned proposing and endorsing positions different than what is, and has, occurred under her watch.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Frets on Fire

Tip for those with kids, nephews, nieces or too much time on your hands:

Frets on Fire is an open source (free) version of a game very similar to Guitar Hero. You don't need a pseudo guitar like GH has; you can hold your computer keyboard upside down, assign function keys and "play" your keyboard. You're not learning to play the guitar, of course, with either GH or FoF, but you do get familiar with guitar parts in a way that you might not have been, so it does have a little bit of music education value. And you don't shoot anyone.

Condi striving for VP

Ugh. Four years ago, I would have been enthusiastic. No more.

Maybe, just maybe, if she's limited to Russian affairs. She'd have to be kept out of any Israeli discussions.

Heston on Civil Rights, other than gun rights

Who knew? From the Houston Chronicle's website:

Even with all of his screen and stage work, Heston always found time for political activities and public service.

He headed the Hollywood delegation in the 1963 civil rights march on Washington. Before that, he'd participated in smaller, less publicized civil rights demonstrations and arranged a meeting between the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and officials of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees to discuss opening the union to blacks.

Public Education Katastrofy

Um, what's a kuhtastrofy?

From the Denver Post:

According to a new study by America's Promise Alliance, 17 of the nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose wife, Alma, chairs the alliance, calls it a "catastrophe."

This is up from 14 districts five years ago. This is more than disturbing. Regretfully, many Texas cities are really lagging. See this 2002-3 chart. I know that here in Texas much of this is due to the flight of the more well-off to the suburbs to escape the bad schools but less than 50%? That is abominable.

Soylent Green...

it's made of people.

Compound Butter

Come join us!

Koresh was a home boy. Thanks, Houston.

Jeffs is an interloper from California originally.

And who can forget those zany guys at the Republic of Texas.


had some choppers.

Compound interest

What is with Texas and the crazed, pseudo-religious, wacko compounds?

And is anyone ever up to anything good in a "compound"?

"Let my people go"

R.I.P. Moses