Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween 2k7

Do you like our pumpkin?

Mrs. TANBI found the design online, and I used my birthday present from the inlaws (a dremel multi-tool) to do a lot of the carving - turns out a drywall spiral saw is a fairly good pumpkin carving tool.

We have strictly regimented trick or treating hours in our world, so from six to eight we had a parade of people. Here are some more photos from before it got dark and the tweens came out:

I think Nemo was my favorite, although Optimous and that Chick were cool too. There was a great tiny little dragon much later in the evening, but I'd stowed the camera by then. All in all pretty fun, and we guessed better on candy this year, so not as many leftovers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Out There Mitch? How does Apple Compare?

The 25 Secret Perks of Working at Google | The Best Article Every day: "12. Google offers a unique “literal 401k” retirement plan; for every dollar an employee invests, Google matches it with $401,000."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's Just Not a Camera

Much as they might like you to think so, the camera on my Moto RAZR just isn't really a camera.

Next time I'll remember to bring the real thing.

In the meantime, enjoy (as much as you can) these image caps from the Chihuly exhibition at Phipps. If you're in Pittsburgh, you really ought to go.

And just as a sideline, if you go, don't spend the whole time talking on your phone. Nobody else there came to listen to you:

"Oh, yeah, I'm at the Phipps thing, had to see it before it closed."

If you were so concerned, why are you spending your whole trip yammering on the phone?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Caveat Emptor

Dave Kopel on UNICEF on National Review Online: "Americans mostly know UNICEF through the “trick or treat for UNICEF” campaigns. The “trick” is on the donors who think that UNICEF is all about helping poor children. UNICEF has been a major financier of Palestinian “summer camps” which encourage children to become suicide bombers. One such camp is named for Wafa Idris, a female suicide bomber."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


How Bush wrecked conservatism | "If it happened under Bush, Iran-Contra wouldn't even make Page A-18. Reagan covertly funded a guerrilla operation in an inconsequential Central American country. Bush covertly and duplicitously laid the groundwork for one of the longest and most expensive wars in American history. Bush declared that habeas corpus, a magnificent cornerstone of Western law, did not apply to those he designated, without judicial review, 'enemy combatants.' He claimed the right to lock those individuals up forever, without allowing them to bring their case before a jury. He made torture official U.S. policy, and was directly responsible for the American-run torture factory at Abu Ghraib. His approval of warrantless wiretapping constitutes perhaps the most serious frontal attack on the right of privacy enshrined in the Fourth Amendment in American history. He has made unprecedented use of 'signing statements' to disobey laws he disagrees with, marginalizing Congress in the process. His radical theory of the 'unitary executive' runs roughshod over the balance-of-powers doctrine that has guided American governance since the Founders."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the Green Page

Today I cross-posted this on the green page:

News from the "Real World": Become a millionaire: Start saving in your youth: "The Best Article Every day: 'The turbulent 20s, that sometimes pleasurable, often painful transition from carefree adolescence to responsible adulthood, is admittedly a difficult time for anyone to focus on saving for retirement.'"

Then I added this as my own comment:

So this may seem a little of topic, but I had to post it. There's this meeting everyone in their 30's attends. You either go to see someone on your own about an IRA or you have a session at work about a 401k. At this meeting they show you a chart about the growth of retirement savings.

Basically what the chart shows is that starting to save at 30, no matter how much you put away, you can't possibly get as much money as you would have had you started contributing at 20 and then stopped at 30 and never contributed again!

Put some money away early.
I've had that particular presentation maybe three times. It's maybe one of the most demoralizing occurrences of adult life. One of the people doing the presentation even had a name for that part of the talk, something like "the death chart" because it was so depressing.

Part of me thinks it ought to be a law that if you work before the age of 21 that a full 50% of your earnings should go into an unbreakable personal retirement trust. You'd think it was really beat while trying to get gas money for dates, but you'd be kissing your representatives when it came time for that IRA presentation. I thought about this the other day too when people were talking about Clinton's proposal of $5,000 for every newborn child. If they put that check into an unbreakable retirement account maybe it isn't as odd an idea as it sounds.

So, for readers here I have the same advice as I gave my students (or at least those that read that post): Put some money away early. You'll thank yourself later.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Was Jed Bartlett Too Smart?

In considering the upcoming US Presidential election I keep having the same thought: is it too much to expect that the President of the United States be a smart person? I guess I have to qualify it too, I don't mean smart appearing or street smart, I mean book smart - smart, intelligent, bright and well educated.

I think the last eight years have been about slick and not about smart. They've found all kinds of ways to do things cheaper, ways to appear to be making a big difference without making much outlay, ways of sounding like we're doing something when we're not or even when we're doing completely the opposite thing. What we haven't seen is much that we're doing better - inherently better, as in higher quality as opposed to better economically, or more profitably for the private sector. Looking back, I don't think we have anyone to blame but ourselves. The people we put in power, and the system we've allowed them to create rewards slick over smart.

The man who is currently our President really, truly struggles to get through the day having all of his public speaking at or above a high school level. At the recent Republican debate one of the moderators asked Fred Thomson the name of the PM of Canada. I usually feel like the "What's the price of a gallon of milk?" questions are unfair. I feel like politicians are so handled that they get a free pass on "out of touch with the common people." But this was a germane knowledge question. In point of fact, on this occasion he got it right, but I am quite certain his people were in the wings praying with everything they had and thinking about what to say if he whiffed it. It wouldn't have been unusual if he'd got it wrong, just like it wasn't unusual when Bush pretty much declared Mandela deceased. Depressing, factually wrong, but not unusual.

Jed Bartlett could quote the Bible, he liked doing taxes, he knew the actual difference between a shaken and a stirred martini, he could find the mathematical nuances of modern classical music, he knew off the top of his head the capitol of Micronesia and could out of his butt pull the biography of Norman Borlaug - inventor of dwarf wheat. He could play and win concurrent games of chess against his own staff. He had a Nobel Prize in economics. You know? Smart, well rounded, educated.

I want smart. I'm over slick. I think we've fudged and spun and gamed everything to within an inch of its life and now it's time for some consolidation, time for someone who doesn't see the virtue of gaming, spin, and close counts.

Is it elitist to never want to question that the person leading our country is smarter than me? I've got some skilz, but I am certainly no SAT 1600 person (or I guess now that'd be 2400). I no longer think its enough to console ourselves with "he'll have the right people around him." Why? What inspires us to think that a less bright person would instinctively choose more bright people? Certainly one cannot have watched the current administration and continue to think that.

The President is more than a decider. The President needs to be an evaluator. The President needs to be a considerer. The President should be a contimplator. Crossing our fingers, hoping the "right people" will be there to present options, and then that Jesus will tell the man the right thing to do - that just hasn't worked very well. Maybe Jed Bartlett was too smart, but he's not that bad a ruler to gauge our future rulers against.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Professor? Really?

Doc has his picture in the Post Gazette today:

He was featured in an article about student plagiarism. While the article itself is fairly interesting, I couldn't help but think that the same photo of me in my office might not exactly convey the same rarefied professorial air:

Which most says "University Professor" to you: the boomerang, the WD-40, or the Darth Tater & Spud Trooper? Me, I can't tell. Oh wait, I guess: Vodka Set! So I guess it will be a while until my picture is emblazoned over a newspaper article about a truly academic subject. I guess some people are just not destined to be respectable.

And on an unrelated subject, I look like shit today. What's up with that?

I Can't Put This on the Green Page

Cal-OSHA Visits Naughty America Set: "A Cal-OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) representative visited the set of a shoot for Naughty America last week. Company spokesperson Dusty Lillo told that the OSHA visit was just a formality for the federal agency."

Can I?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Save the People

It's "blog action day." Bloggers around the world are supposed to write about the environment in order to build awareness for green and sustainability causes.

I didn't register my blog as an official participant, but I think it's a fairly good idea and worth doing. For my contribution I have selected a piece from my favorite environmentalist to present to you.

His name is George Carlin. He has little time for self-importance or hypocrisies. I also think he has a slightly more realistic take on our interest in a clean environment. Perhaps it will give you pause next time you talk about "saving the planet."

We're so self-important. So self-important. Everybody's going to save something now. "Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails." And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. What? Are these fucking people kidding me? Save the planet, we don't even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven't learned how to care for one another, we're gonna save the fucking planet?

I'm getting tired of that shit. Tired of that shit. I'm tired of fucking Earth Day, I'm tired of these self-righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren't enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world save for their Volvos. Besides, environmentalists don't give a shit about the planet. They don't care about the planet. Not in the abstract they don't. Not in the abstract they don't. You know what they're interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They're worried that some day in the future, they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn't impress me.

Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We've been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we've only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we're a threat? That somehow we're gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that's just a-floatin' around the sun?

The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles...hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages...And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet...the planet...the planet isn't going anywhere. WE ARE!

We're going away. Pack your shit, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam. Maybe. A little styrofoam. The planet'll be here and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.

You wanna know how the planet's doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet's doing. You wanna know if the planet's all right, ask those people in Mexico City or
Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilowaia, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.

The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, "Why are we here?" Plastic...asshole.

So, the plastic is here, our job is done, we can be phased out now. And I think that's begun. Don't you think that's already started? I think, to be fair, the planet sees us as a mild threat. Something to be dealt with. And the planet can defend itself in an organized, collective way, the way a beehive or an ant colony can. A collective defense mechanism. The planet will think of something. What would you do if you were the planet? How would you defend yourself against this troublesome, pesky species? Let's see... Viruses. Viruses might be good. They seem vulnerable to viruses. And, uh...viruses are tricky, always mutating and forming new strains whenever a vaccine is developed. Perhaps, this first virus could be one that compromises the immune system of these creatures. Perhaps a human immunodeficiency virus, making them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases and infections that might come along. And maybe it could be spread sexually, making them a little reluctant to engage in the act of reproduction.

Well, that's a poetic note. And it's a start. And I can dream, can't I? See I don't worry about the little things: bees, trees, whales, snails. I think we're part of a greater wisdom than we will ever understand. A higher order. Call it what you want. Know what I call it? The Big Electron. The Big Electron...whoooa. Whoooa. Whoooa. It doesn't punish, it doesn't reward, it doesn't judge at all. It just is. And so are we. For a little while.
Maybe people would act more responsibly if they saw environmental problems as an actual threat to themselves rather than some abstract threat to the environment. Don't "save the planet," from now on let's "save the people."

TANBI T-Shirt Presentation

Last spring Jillian was the Spring 2007 Semester Review Shoe Winner. She finally got her shirt last Friday...

I even did a back this time in honor of the specific shoes:

Congrats to Jillian!


Sundays in the fall just aren't the same when the Steelers have a bye week... I am SO glad the Congress is taking time to finally deal with a 100 year old genocide. After that they are going to start working on environmental legislation to prevent The Great Flood... I get it, he's gay AND European. Good thing too, I was getting bored... Best selling book, Emmy, Oscar, Nobel Peace Prize, wouldn't President be a step down? And I can't say as I am thrilled by the state of peacemaking that Gore gets the award on the campaign against climate change... The next Iron Chef will apparently not be a woman... 10.5 hours with 4.5 hours in front of a class is a long, long, really long day... Micheal Clayton is ok... I believe we've thrown in the towel on our fantasy football team. Not being able to access the site twice is enough to drive me away... How come the UK gets the free wifi? Where's the love McDonald's? Really... Made my first two sided TANBI t-shirt. Hopefully there'll be pictures next week... My boss is quitting. Not sure where to fall on that... It was nice to see Walt again. I never woul dhave thought I'd be old enough to not have seen a friend for 10 years - yes Blake, I realize its been much, much longer than that... I am thinking "Good Eats" may be coming off the DVR season subscription... Since the Cubs are out, the League Championship Series are totally off my radar... Mom's last information was apparently unnecessarily gloomy. That's a good thing... We're making the switch to one litter box. I predict the entire house will soon be filled with poop. Still, its worth the effort... One of my students claimed they were going to spend the weekend finishing a project from more than six months ago. I'm not holding my breath... Being made to watch "Flash Gordon" in order to see the Razor flashbacks really ought to be illegal...

Friday, October 12, 2007

What He Said...

Ask the pilot | Salon Technology: "At this point, the whole apparatus of concourse security is little more than a stage presentation, a theater of the absurd, choreographed to the cowardly notion that confiscating shampoo bottles and forcing airline captains to remove their footwear actually makes us safer. How we got here is an interesting study in reactionary politics, fear-mongering, and a disconcerting willingness of the American public to accept almost anything in the name of 'security.' We have come to equate intrusiveness and inconvenience with safety."

Monday, October 08, 2007

Do The Right Thing

Not too long ago I heard on the radio about a mother raising money for her son's legal defense. The son had been in the military and is up on some kind of charges for behavior stemming from something I am sure someone is calling a massacre.

Then, more recently I heard about an insurance company that was habitually refusing to cover their clients health problems based on the condition being pre-existing in nature. The insurance company is the Veterans' Administration and the pre-existing condition is post-traumatic stress disorder; you know, the one that they used to call shellshock.

Just the other day I heard that a company was denying retirees a benefit because their time in the company was structured so as to expire just short of vesting. The company is the Army and the benefit is the GI Tuition program. Seems many, many soldiers tours are just a hair too short to qualify.

Really, I guess it's possible that these guys are really in the wrong and they shot up a bunch of civilians without cause. I guess it's possible that all of these stressed out soldiers did have some previously existing underlying susceptibility to stress. I guess it's possible that the normal standing procedure is for a tour to end short of vesting in many programs. I guess it's possible.

I don't think it should matter.

Seems to me that if someone enlists (or is drafted, gulp) into our military and they see combat (and yes I am sure THAT definition could become very convoluted) then we pretty much have to write their ticket. Nobody should have to take up a collection for an attorney, US Soldiers ought to have the very best representation provided to the at no cost. We shouldn't be putzing around with pre-existing conditions. All conditions re-set when you push an individual in front of gunfire; US Soldiers ought to have federally funded health insurance for life and the insurance should be good, and simple. Do we really need to be nickel and diming over the GI Bill? Isn't there someplace we can look up that says that the investment is worth more than the fight? Besides, we very nearly got these people killed. Sending them to school seems like the very, very least we can do.

Maybe this sort of thing is ok during peacetime. Maybe in that case we can afford to make sure every letter of the regulations is followed. But it just seems that once combat is involved that a paycheck is no longer sufficient. For going into harms way these people deserve our respect and indulgence. We should take care of them. They took care of us.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Cubs Lose, World Yawns...

See, I told you.

Double Play. Double Play. Double Play. Double Play.

That's pretty much the whole story. Really they didn't have to lock up Steve Bartman or anything. Finding a way to lose really is a Chicago sports tradition. It's nice some teams still respect the old ways. Well, at least this way I don't have to decide between the Cubs and the Steelers tomorrow.

Maybe that's it. Maybe they all wanted to watch the Steelers too.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Famous Again, sorta, ok not really - but I won something...

Toolmonger » Blog Archive » Glove Winner: The Yardasaur: "Remember those little stamped-wood you-assemble-it dinosaur kits you used to pick up at the museum and build in an afternoon? TM reader and photo pool member dbthetd does, too, and he’s found a new application for his CNC router."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Be The First Geek on your Block

I was the first geek on my block to get mine.

Congrats Alan!