A final tally

Tonight I spent 3 1/2 hours changing 520 lines of negative inventory to zero, which is the last inventory-related task. After running the final numbers, with close to $1 million in sales this year, the inventory count was off by....$117.68. That's .0117%! Rita, the owner of the store, almost kissed Missy, who has really been spearheading this whole thing.

Preznit's address

Cut and pasted from Rude Pundit -
Here's how President Bush's ended his brief meeting with reporters yesterday at the Crawford Ranch, which began with his statement that he feels really, really bad about the whole tsunami tragedy. Some eunuch ball licker from the gathered reporters asked Bush if he had any New Year's resolutions. A compassionate man at that point might have said something about resolving to help the countries through this crisis. A wise man may have said he was going to reach out more to others who are across the political aisle. There's a million things he could have said. Instead, he decided to take a giant shit on the statement of sympathy he had just given: "I'll let you know. Already gave you a hint on one, which is my waistline. I'm trying to set an example."

So that's how the whole thing ended. The eyes of the world were on this appearance by our fearless leader, his absence the last 72 hours having been conspicuous in the way that the absence of a lost dog might make one feel whenever you look at the uneaten food in the dog bowl. And how does he end this little showing? By saying, "I've gotten fat." So, fuck you, all you millions of starving Sri Lankans, Indonesians, and others. The fattened President feels your pain. And, hey, take a hint from Georgie: he's settin' an example- a few days without food'll improve that waistline problem in no time.

Disaster relief

After doing a little research, Missy and I are donating to the OxFam Fund - not enough, but some. Charity Navigator gives them three stars for efficiency, and a poster on Daily Kos wrote this about them -
Ray Offenheiser and John Ambler, Oxfam Prez and Vp respectively, are both experienced Asia hands, really understand development and relief work, and apply development thinking to relief efforts. This is important because many donor-driven programs let out big contracts, for example, to rebuild housing for local people. It's important for survivors (the able-bodied ones) to get back to work, to build their own homes, work on community infrastructure. They earn some money on community efforts, but most important, they redeem their belief in their own ability to affect the direction of their own lives.

OxFam's contact info:
Oxfam America
26 West Street
Boston, MA 02111-1206
800-776-9326
www.oxfamamerica.org


This is from Drudge, so read it with a grain of salt - I wouldn't be surprised if it's right though.
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 (Bernama) -- The death toll in Acheh, the region worst hit by last Sunday's tsunami, may exceed 400,000 as many affected areas could still not be reached for search and rescue operations, Indonesia's Ambassador to Malaysia Drs H. Rusdihardjo said Thursday.

He said the estimate was based on air surveillance by Indonesian authorities who found no signs of life in places like Meulaboh, Pulau Simeulue and Tapak Tuan while several islands off the west coast of Sumatera had "disappeared".

Mount Washington legal challenge?

This will be fascinating to perhaps no one but me, but it's my blog. Two weeks ago I posted photos from the annual Mt. Washington Hill Climb, and noted that the road to the summit is only open to cyclists twice a year - one day for a practice run and the day of the race. From the time the road was built in the late 1890's until the Hill Climb started around 20 years ago, the road was completely off-limits to cyclists. Bob Mionske, a lawyer for VeloNews, weighs in on the issue of whether this denial of use can be challenged in court. The article is pretty long, so I won't post the entire thing, but here is a short excerpt -
When the New Hampshire legislature granted a charter to the Road Corporation in 1853, it gave it the power of eminent domain, also known as condemnation. Eminent domain is the ability to force an unwilling landowner to sell to you, with the price determined by a court. To build the road, the Road Company had condemned the land of one J. M. Thompson, who objected on the grounds that the government cannot delegate the power of condemnation to a private company. The court said it could:

"The power to take private property for public use may be exercised by the government through the means of a private corporation. The fact that the members have a pecuniary interest . . . will not prevent the State from using it to accomplish a public object."

There is a big qualification, however. Eminent domain can only be used by the government to advance a public purpose:

"If the enterprise was of a public character and the road open to public use, the legislature would have the power to authorize the taking of private property to accomplish the public object."

Therefore, if the Mount Washington Road Company used its grant of eminent domain to build its project, the resulting road must be a "public purpose."

New tattoo

I've decided that tattoo #4 is going to be the outline of a dove capping my left shoulder - not on my upper arm, but further up on the point of my shoulder - probably 4"x4". I want something relatively abstract that doesn't look too Christian (it's a dove of peace, not a dove of religion) or too much like an eagle (again - dove of peace, not cliched symbol of patriotism). Here are a few that I've found so far. I'd really like to hear opinions, suggestions, alterations, or alternatives (e-mail photo files to brozek@polisci.wisc.edu).







Note: just the dove, not the hands





To: Palestine From: U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

Intolerance Wednesday (tm) continues with this from Ann Coulter's site-
To The People Of Islam:
Just think: If we'd invaded your countries, killed your leaders and converted you to Christianity YOU'D ALL BE OPENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS RIGHT ABOUT NOW!
Merry Christmas

I'd like to think she's being tongue-in-cheek, but I've flipped through her books at Barnes & Noble, and I think that's probably not the case.

Reggie White

On Sunday and Monday, radio stations in Madison, and probably in most of the rest of Wisconsin, were giving roughly equal time to Reggie White's death as they were to the tsunami. Google News just posted excerpts from a speech White, a pastor after his football career ended, gave to the Wisconsin legislature in 1998. You're not going to hear this on the radio -
White said the United States has gotten away from God, in part by allowing homosexuality to "run rampant."

Homosexuality is a sin, and the plight of gays and lesbians should not be compared to that of blacks, White told lawmakers.

"Homosexuality is a decision, it's not a race," White said. "People from all different ethnic backgrounds live in this lifestyle. But people from all different ethnic backgrounds also are liars and cheaters and malicious and back-stabbing."

White said he has thought about why God created different races. Each race has certain gifts, he said.

Blacks are gifted at worship and celebration, White said.

"If you go to a black church, you see people jumping up and down because they really get into it," he said.

Whites are good at organization, White said.

"You guys do a good job of building businesses and things of that nature, and you know how to tap into money," he said.

"Hispanics were gifted in family structure, and you can see a Hispanic person, and they can put 20, 30 people in one home."

The Japanese and other Asians are inventive, and "can turn a television into a watch," White said. Indians are gifted in spirituality, he said.

"When you put all of that together, guess what it makes: It forms a complete image of God," White said.

He sure doesn't shy away from the casual stereotype, huh? The implication that homosexuality was equivalent behavior to malicious lying and back-stabbing was also nice.

Data entry fiend

I'm putting my NYT-honed data entry skillz to work for the Scrapbook Superstore this week, changing inventory counts in their computer system based on whether the hand counts are over or under the expected counts. Since hand-counting requires looking for things on the floor, in the storage room, on the clearance wall, and in the customer hold bin, Missy doesn't trust me to do it. I have nimble fingers, though, so I've been given computer duty. They bring me sheets - I type in the changes - like a well-oiled scrapbooking machine. I have to watch for counts that are off by more than one or two (unless they're off by factors of 6 or 12, which is the size of a case and would indicate an order entry error), and the process is _completely_ different depending on whether there is an over- or under-count. This starts after the store closes at 8:00 and goes well into the night.

They tell me that there are over 250,000 unique SKUs that have to be hand-counted. Ugh.

Bike Blogging Addendum

The just-released 2005 Cervelo P3Carbon may be the sleekest, most gorgeous bicycle I've ever seen. I haven't found an MSRP yet, but I'll post it when I do...



Here's a photo from the front - doesn't it look slippery? Like you could ride 40mph without pedaling?



Edited to add: Apparently the P3Carbon isn't available as a complete unit, but you can put together the bike in the picture for $6,524. That's $2,999 for the frame and fork, $1,875 for the component group, and $1,650 for the wheelset.

It's a lot for a bike, but not bad for a used Hyundai.

Belated Friday Bike Blogging

Many, many of you have told me that Friday bike blogging is the high point of your week. That's sad, but I blog to serve -

Cyclocross (or just 'cross if you're hip) is a fall sport, full of mud and filth. Races involve multiple laps of a short course (usually well under a mile), including paved sections, off-road sections, and barriers that force the rider to dismount and carry his or her bike. You can see in the photos that the races are done on road bikes modified with mud-shedding brakes and knobby tires- not mountain bikes. I've never done a race, but I've done some course recon' with my friends who race - it's dirty, messy fun.

Note: Todd Wells, the guy in the last picture, rides for the same team as me. He was ranked third in the nation this year, though, which was considerably higher than I was.

















Iraq isn't Vietnam - It's Worse

Slate has a fantastic article today that compares battle deaths in Iraq to Vietnam using a concept similar to constant dollars. You should correct people when they mention that we're taking "light" casualties in Iraq.
Gawande applied the same methodology to U.S. casualty statistics in previous wars, arriving at a "lethality of wounds" rate for each conflict. In World War II, 30 percent of wounds proved deadly. In Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War, this rate hovered between 24 percent and 25 percent. But due to better medical technology, doctrinal changes that push surgical teams closer to the front lines, and individual armor protection for soldiers, this rate has dropped to 10 percent for Operation Iraqi Freedom for all wounds. For serious wounds that keep a soldier away from duty for more than 72 hours, the mortality rate is now 16 percent. Simply, a soldier was nearly 1.5 times more likely to die from his wounds in Vietnam than in Iraq today.

This disparity between the "lethal wound" rates has profound implications. Analogy is a powerful tool for perspective, and Vietnam still reverberates, but the numbers must reflect the actual risks. In 1966, for example, 5,008 U.S. servicemen were killed in action in Vietnam. Another 1,045 died of "non-hostile" wounds (17 percent of the total fatalities). Since Jan. 1, 2004, 754 U.S. servicemen and -women have been killed in action in Iraq, and 142 more soldiers died in "non-hostile" mishaps (16 percent of the fatalities, similar to Vietnam). Applying Vietnam's lethality rate (25 percent) to the total number of soldiers killed in action in Iraq this year, however, brings the 2004 KIA total to 1,131.

The scale can be further balanced. In 1966, U.S. troops in Vietnam numbered 385,000. In 2004, the figure in Iraq has averaged roughly 142,000. Comparing the burden shouldered by individual soldiers in both conflicts raises the 2004 "constant casualty" figure in Iraq to 3,065 KIA. Further, casualties in Iraq fall more heavily on those performing infantry missions. Riflemen—as well as tankers and artillerymen who operate in provisional infantry units in Iraq—bear a much higher proportion of the risk than they did in Vietnam. In Vietnam, helicopter pilots and their crews accounted for nearly 5 percent of those killed in action. In Iraq in 2004, this figure was less than 3 percent. In Vietnam, jet pilots accounted for nearly 4 percent of U.S. KIAs. In 2004, the United States did not lose a single jet to enemy action in Iraq. When pilots and aircrews are removed from the equation, 4,602 ground-based soldiers died during 1966 in Vietnam, compared to 2,975 in Iraq during 2004.


White Christmas - in Mexico

On my wife's command, there was a white Christmas in Madison this year. Shamefully, the amount of snow that fell here (1" if I'm being generous) was far less than what fell on my grandparents' house - near South Padre Island in the tip of Texas. Apparently it was the first time it had snowed there since 1896. I'm embarrassed to call myself a wish-granter.

We're going ice-skating today, though - I'd like to see grandpa and grandma try that on the gulf!

I'm feeling elevated today

I know what Missy's getting for Christmas!

Personal Threat Level Indicator

Ghost Story with a Hidden Agenda

Once again, stolen from the fantastic McSweeney's:

WHERE IS MY GOLDEN ARM?
Once, a woman was struck by a car while she was crossing the street. She was severely injured and lost her left arm as a result. The car was driven by a rich man who felt so guilty he bought the woman an artificial arm made of solid gold.

The woman's husband was a greedy man who saw his wife's gleaming golden limb and thought only of all the things he could buy with it. He tried to persuade her to part with the arm but she wouldn't hear of it. In a fit of rage, the man killed his wife. He took her golden arm and buried her body in the woods behind his house.

Late that evening, at around midnight, the man lay in bed stroking the golden arm and envisioning his coming riches. Outside, the wind blew briskly at a high, shrill pitch, at times rattling the shutters of the ramshackle house. It was an unsettling noise, almost like a woman's voice moaning in pain. As the man listened more intently, the wailing began to sound like words:

"Golllllden arrrrrrm! Golllllllden arrrrrrm!"

The man shuddered. It sounded like the voice was somewhere out in the woods near where he buried his wife, 640 feet away from where he lay in bed. As the man listened for the next 100 minutes, the voice began to travel, nearer and nearer, until it sounded as though it were 160 feet away! Abruptly, the wind died down. He strained to hear the voice again but all was still. The man told himself he must be hearing things. He tucked the golden arm safely under his own and soon fell asleep.

But the next night, at midnight, he heard the voice again! Cold nodules of fear blossomed up and down his spine like arctic flowers. This time when the voice spoke, every word was articulated and distinct:

"Where is my gollllden arrrrrrrrm?" it wept. "Where is my golllllden arrrrrrrm?"

It was his dead wife. As he listened, it was clear that her voice was drawing closer!

However, the strain of materializing again so soon had weakened the ghost and she was not as powerful as she was the previous night. As a result, she was only able to manifest for 50 minutes. She groaned and cried, moving closer and closer. Finally, her voice fell silent 40 feet away from where he lay in bed, just outside the front door to his house! The man was eventually able to fall into a troubled sleep at dawn.

The following evening, the man made sure to lock the front door with its heaviest bolt. He shuttered all the windows and sealed the chimney flue. Content that nothing could penetrate his defenses, he fell asleep cradling the golden arm. At midnight however, he woke with a start. The ghost had begun her hideous moaning once again. A great shattering of glass was heard. She was inside the house! Slowly, the phantom drifted down the front hall, toward the man's bedroom.

"Where is my gollllden arrrrrm? Where is my gollllden arrrrrrrrrrm?" his dead wife wailed.

That night, the ghost appeared for even less time than before, her energy much depleted from the previous night's efforts. After 25 minutes of caterwauling, the apparition gave a last choking gasp only 10 feet from where he lay trembling in fear.

The terrified man didn't sleep at all that night. The next morning, he locked the bedroom door and pushed the couch in front of it, then stacked his dresser on top for good measure. Soon the door was all but buried under a mountain of possessions. He boarded up the windows and dragged over a heavy desk to block the fireplace. He moved his bed five feet to the center of the room so he could survey it from all angles, inadvertently moving himself five feet closer to the path of the ghost. All day he huddled there, wide-eyed, cowering under the sheets. Then, sure enough, as the clock chimed midnight, there was a resounding thud as the desk blocking the fireplace fell over. The spirit struck up her unearthly keening as she glided through his bedroom. The ghost was even further exhausted by the rigors of manifesting in the fleshly plane and appeared for a shorter amount of time than the night before.

"Where is my golllllden arrrrrmmm? Where is my gollllden arrrrrrrrrrrm?" howled the specter.

The man lay frozen, clutching the golden arm, too afraid to stir. How much of this did he have to stand? At this rate, how long would it take for the ghost to be upon him?!

"I'VE GOT IT!!!" yelled the man. "You will press your moldering body against mine, place your decaying, necrotic mouth over my mouth, and begin sucking out my soul in precisely 8 minutes and 33 seconds!" And with that, he flung the golden arm at the ghost!

There was a long pause of complete silence. Minutes passed. Then, chillingly, the man felt the bedclothes being drawn from his body. A piece of scrap paper and a pencil were roughly shoved in his hand by a clammy, fumbling claw.

"Show your work!" moaned his dead wife, "Showwww your workkkkkkk!"


Poor Grandpa - he just wanted to be hip

This is sad and a little scary, but it make me snort with laughter (just a little bit though - unintentional death is no laughing matter).

LiveStrong yellow matches 'do not resuscitate' bands in some hospitals
By The Associated Press
This report filed December 10, 2004
Hospitals are removing or taping over patients' LiveStrong bracelets for fear of a fatal mix-up.

The yellow bands are the same color as the "do not resuscitate" bands a hospital chain puts on patients who don't want to be saved if their heart stops.

No mix-ups have been reported, but BayCare Health Systems officials don't want to take any chances.

The popular rubber bracelets are sold through the Lance Armstrong Foundation. It's part of the champion bicycle racer's efforts to raise money for cancer education and research.

Hospitals use colored bracelets to quickly tell doctors, nurses and other staff special instructions for certain patients.

At BayCare Health hospitals, purple bands mean that the patient is at risk of falling. Red means the patient has allergies.

Not all hospitals use the same coloring system.

2004 Music Picks

It's a list-ey time of the year, so here are the 5 best and worst songs of the year, as compiled by me based on criteria you couldn't torture out of me. The latter list is a little heavy on current stuff, which I attribute to my having blocked out so many, many horrible songs. If you're looking for a more informed opinion, check out Pitchfork's top 50 singles and top 50 albums (available on 12/22)

Top 5 Songs of 2004 (in order):
1) Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
2) Modest Mouse - Float On
3) White Stripes - Seven Nation Army
4) The Killers - Somebody Told Me
5) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps

Bottom 5 Songs of 2004 (in order):
1) Lenny Kravitz - Lady
2) Bowling for Soup - 1985
3) Ashlee Simpson - Pieces of Me
4) Hoobastank - The Reason
5) Black Eyed Peas - Let's Get it Started


Bonus Feature: Top 10 Songs of 2004 That You Didn't Hear on the Radio:
1) Broken Social Scene - Cause=Time
2) The Shins - Young Pilgrims
3) The Black Keys - All Hands Against His Own
4) TV on the Radio - Ambulance
5) The Decemberists - Billy Liar
6) Elliott Smith - A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free
7) Ambulance LTD - Primitive
8) Zero 7 - In the Waiting Line
9) The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
10) The Faint - Southern Belles in London Sing

There you have it - feel free to contribute your own lists or invert mine.

You can play these songs with chords

I just got done completely restringing my acoustic guitar for the first time. It took well over an hour and I broke two bottom E strings, but the process was very soothing. I still can't play it very well, but I like imagining that I'll learn how someday.

Props to CV Pros

If you need auto maintenance or repair work done, I strongly recommend CV Pros on East Wash. Our Blazer has been vibrating at 55+ mph for a few weeks now, which I (mistakenly) just attributed to it getting on in years. This morning, though, the vibrating got much, much worse, and at lower speeds - shuddering away from stoplights so badly that it felt like the wheels were going to fall off. Thanks to a helpful tip from my dad (Hi Dad!), I suspected the universal joint (or "u-joint" if you're hip to the auto mechanic lingo). That was right, and CV Pros fixed it for under $150 and threw in a free 2005 Bucky Book to boot.

Best of all, though, they weren't condescending or judgmental about us not bringing it in sooner. I hate - absolutely detest - taking our car to the mechanic, and I think it's because I hate being on the inferior end of an informational asymmetry. They could tell me, "Yeah, you're definitely going to need a new flux capicator, and probably a 15-mil Campagnolo widget as long as we're under there," and I have no way to know whether that's a complete fabrication (note: it is. Don't ever let Meineke replace your flux capacitor). This is why I always call my dad first - he knows what he's talking about, so that I can fake it when I talk to the mechanic. Today I used the term "rear differential" and I don't think the guy at CV Pros had any idea that, as far as I knew, I was speaking gobbledygook. He even (and this reminded me a lot of something my dad would do) took me back into the shop area to show me why the u-joint needed to be replaced. I didn't get the feeling that he was trying to prove that he wasn't ripping me off, but that he wanted me to understand why this was a bad thing and why replacement joints were necessary.

Payoff - mad props to CV Pros for fixing the Blazer so we can keep on Blazin' away.

Ultramax Ironman - cancelled

Wow - I'm really crushed. The Ultramax Ironman was going to be the peak of my '05 season, and it's probably too late to sign up for any other Ironman races without having to travel to North Carolina or Florida or Switzerland. My stomach hurts.
Race production company Ultramax Events, will produce seven exciting events in Missouri during the 2005 season. The decision was made to not host the full iron-distance Ultramax Triathlon in 2005, and to focus energy on expanding on the great success of the 2004 U.S. Half Triathlon Championship.

The Ultramax Triathlon premiered in 2002 at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri and moved to Smithville, MO (just outside of Kansas City) in 2004. The race has always been popular with those that traveled to test themselves against the iron-distance course, ranking 20th among US triathlons in its first year, and 11th in 2003.

The small number of Ultramax finishers made the event very personal and extremely inspiring. However, that small number of racers just does not justify the logistics, costs and amount of work required to produce a full iron-distance event.

Ultramax (like each of Ultramax Events’ seven races) is very unique in the fact that it is 100% charity focused. This factor is one of the primary reasons behind the decision not to host the full iron-distance event in 2005. “We would hold the event for a few racers if we could, but our primary job is to raise money for the Missouri Lions Eye Research Foundation. We simply can’t host races that don’t contribute to making the Foundation’s sight saving programs successful,” said Ultramax Events Race Director, Mark Livesay.

“Unfortunately, the launch of the Ultramax Triathlon came in 2002, the very same year that Ironman™ Wisconsin was introduced to the triathlon world,” explained Livesay. “We set out to serve our racers by offering an iron-distance event in their backyard…as it turned out we were not the only ones that set out to fill the long course void in the Midwest.”

Most long course triathletes today realize that Ironman™ has created an outstanding phenomenon and has secured a tremendous hold on the iron-distance market. “I’ve raced in Ironman events and been to Kona, so I fully understand the Ironman draw,” offers Livesay. “Although almost unreachable for all but a small number of age-group athletes, the dream to go to the World Championships is one all age-groupers have in common. It is a very compelling and driving force.”

With an Ironman™ race now easily accessed by Midwest athletes, and the only place to qualify for Kona, Livesay and his team have decided to focus on filling another need within the sport of triathlon…a "true qualifying half iron-distance championship".

Hosting the Ultramax triathlon for the past three years allowed Ultramax Events to build a strong race organization and gain the national respect needed to launch a national Half Championship event. In 2005, the organization will concentrate efforts on producing its seven established multi-sport events.

Ultramax was appealing for two main reasons - (1) I could raise the entire entry-fee through fundraising instead of paying it out of my own pocket, and (2) Missouri is within driving distance for Missy and I, as well as my parents and siblings.

I think I have three options if I still want to do an Ironman next summer. Most of the official Ironman events (the ones sponsored by the Ironman Corporations - the ones that get to use the official m-dot logo) close within hours, so all of those are out.

Option #1 - The exception to that rule, however, is to get a spot at Ironman-Wisconsin through the community fund program. If I raise $1000 for youth sports-related charities in south-central Wisconsin, the Ironman Corporation will give me one of the reserved community-fund slots in the race. Right now, this is the leading option. It would certainly be convenient, but the drawbacks are that I've already done this race and raising $1000 wouldn't be easy, even if I do have 9 months to do it. I could probably get Pacific Cycle to kick in a big donation or provide matching funds, though, so I'm not letting the big number scare me too much. I'd have to decide and start fundraising soon, though, because I think the community fund slots go pretty fast too.

Edited to add: I just found out that community fund entrants also get a special jersey, a private swim clinic the day before the race, and special seats at the awards banquet. This option is looking more and more appealing. Could I really raise $1000 in three or four months though?

Option #2 - The Duke Blue Devil Ironman-distance race in Wilmington, NC on 10/8. A different race in a different state, but I'd have to pay for registration, airfare, and hotel on my own. It would also mean a week away from school just a few weeks before the end of the semester.

Option #3 - The Great Floridian Ironman-distance race in Clermont, FL on 10/22. Ditto.

Edited to add: Option #4 - I suppose the Oklahoma City Redman on 9/24 is a possible fourth option, but I'm leery of doing a race in its inaugural year. There are a lot of potential problems during an Ironman, and I'd rather do a race with an experienced staff. Plus, Oklahoma?!?

Well, I'm not getting any work done now

There must be some point that this repeats itself, but I haven't found it yet.

Freaky.

Friday Bike Blogging

Today's topic - the Mount Washington Hill Climb.
The annual race up Mount Washington is a steep (no, steeper than that) 7.4 miles on bad pavement in nasty weather. The highest sustained wind speed in the U.S. was recorded at the top of Mount Washington. The road is only open to bikes twice a year - once for the practice run and once for the race - and the top few miles are never open to cars. The race is so tough that the running record for the course is only a couple minutes shorter than the bike record. Here's a good description of the route:
All the numbers are daunting. The road climbs 4,727 feet from its base off Route 16 outside Gorham, N.H. The average grade is 12 percent, with extended sections at 18 percent, and the last 100 yards at 22.5 percent. The top third of the road is not paved. There are 72 turns, with the longest straightaway only three-tenths of a mile, on dirt.

Here are some photos from this year's race -









4N policy news

Two big foreign policy stories in the news today - both of which are bad news.

Story #1 - Kyo-NO
The Kyoto Protocol is dead -- there will be no further global treaties that set binding limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) after Kyoto runs out in 2012.

The conventional wisdom that it's the United States against the rest of the world in climate change diplomacy has been turned on its head. Instead it turns out that it is the Europeans who are isolated. China, India, and most of the rest of the developing countries have joined forces with the United States to completely reject the idea of future binding GHG emission limits. At the conference here in Buenos Aires, Italy shocked its fellow European Union members when it called for an end to the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. These countries recognize that stringent emission limits would be huge barriers to their economic growth and future development.


Story #2 - Star Wars - Episode 18
President Bush remains intent on deploying a multibillion-dollar shield as an "important deterrent" against ballistic missile attack, the White House said on Thursday, a day after the system's first flight test in two years ended in failure.

Scott McClellan, Bush's spokesman, did not address a delay in activating the first parts of the planned shield. It appeared to have slipped into next year, partly because of technical difficulties.

"The president remains firmly committed to moving forward on a missile defense system," he told reporters. "Given the threats that we face in this day and age, missile defense is an important deterrent."



Bikes for x-mas

This is the first Christmas in three years that Missy I haven't given someone a bike, which makes me kind of sad. I found this quote on Bicycle Retailer's site, and I thought I'd share it -
I haven't purchased my best holiday present yet, but I've already received it. My 10-year-old son has asked for a new bike. That is all I could ever want for Christmas. For he is a vid-kid who is called upon by his parents to rescue us from our ineptitude at operating the DVD player. He is owner of a Game Boy (his third) and a collection of computer games that is alarmingly heavy on science fiction. He is a connoisseur of movies and has developed a habit of watching them while displaying subtitles in different languages. He's especially fond of those bonus scenes about how the director and crew achieved the totally awesome special effects. He is, by every measure, a normal 10-year-old. That's what had me worried. Until he asked for the bike.

Yeah!

If you need someone to yell "Yeah!" in the background of your hip-hop song, Li'l John is your man.

History from the other side

The project I'm working on involves reading front-page New York Times stories from 1976-1980, and I've found that the only way to stay mentally engaged is to think about what it must have been like reading these stories as history unfolded. For example, the story I just coded mentions the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 (which is why it's considered an opportunity for the U.S. to use force). The first sentence is, "President Carter proposed today that the Moscow Olympics be moved or postphoned or canceled if the Soviet Union failed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan within a month."

Less than a month later, another story had more historical implications - "The United States began an operation to supply light infantry weapons to Afghan insurgent groups in mid-January, White House officials said today." Those are the same weapons that members of Al qaeda are using to kill U.S. troops in Afghan right now.

It's kind of trite, but don't forget that history isn't over - we're living in times that our grandchildren will want to ask us about. If they're not too busy playing their virtual reality Game Boys. Ungrateful little jerks.

but it doesn't smell like smoke

Does it seem odd to you that I would be the only one in the computer lab at 4:30 on the Thursday before finals week? I'm listening to accuradio while I code, so I suppose it's possible that I missed a fire alarm.

Blog free - free as the winnnnnnd blowwwws

I'm blogging without any wires. Should I be worried that 11MB/sec of data are being transmitted through my body?

Want to own a bike shop?

There's no word on whether the shop had been in the black or not, so I think I'll keep my money -
DECEMBER 13, 2004 -- HANCOCK, MD (BRAIN)--If you've got $250 and a convincing argument, you could take over a bike shop and bunkhouse in Hancock. Owners Pamela and George Whetzel are retiring to travel in a motor home. Instead of simply selling the shop, though, the Whetzels are raffling it.

Here's how it works: Write a 400-word essay on why you want the business and mail it in along with $250. If the couple gets 1,000 entries--for a total of $250,000--they will pick the best essay and hand its author the shop keys. If they don't receive 1,000 entries, they will mail the money back, Pamela Whetzel said.

"I don't want to sell to just anyone, because this place is my dream," she said.

The shops sits between a 20-mile paved rail trail and the dirt C&O Canal trail that runs 184 miles, from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, D.C.

The shop's web site is www.candobicycle.com.

Interested parties can send 400-word essays to P.O. Box 417, Hancock, MD, 21750. Whetzel will be accepting entries until April 15 with $250 payments in cash or money order.

Here's a photo of the shop from their website -



A Missionary's Guide

There's nothing quite as refreshing on a face-numbingly-cold Tuesday morning than a little stolen humor -

How do you spread the word of the Messiah to everybody? Read below to find the group you're targeting, memorize the script, then get out there and sell!
Troubled Teen: Man, Jesus is boring. I'd rather ride my BMX bicycle, smoke reefer, and get handjobs.

Missionary: Whoa, there! You think Jesus is boring?! Well, peep this, homeslice. One time Jesus was chilling at this party, when ... what? Aw, hell no. The guy throwing the party didn't buy enough wine. Everybody was about to leave, when out of nowhere, Jesus made a whole grip of wine, and some tasty-ass snacks. Having a guy around who can create a keg out of thin air would be pretty helpful to somebody who can't buy beer, yo.

Troubled Teen: I never knew Jesus liked to party.

Missionary: Word. (Of the Lord!)

Feminist: Jesus is the figurehead of a patriarchal religion that teaches women that they are second to men in all things.

Missionary: You're really pretty.

Feminist: What? Really?

Missionary: Yeah, I mean, it's not an obvious kind of prettiness—it's subtler. You look a little like Kate Winslet.

Feminist: (sobs) Nobody has ever said that to me before. That's why I'm so angry.

Missionary: I bet you've had some pretty bad experiences with men. But I'd like to give you a good one. What are you doing on Friday?

Feminist: I was going to go to a Take Back The Night march but ...

Missionary: ... you'd rather go to Applebee's and get to know me better? You don't mind if I bring my wingman do you? His name is Our Lord.

Democrat: Actually, I'm already a Christian. I go to First Presbyterian.

Missionary: I don't get it.

Democrat: I know.

Cold front?

How, in the space of two days, did the weather change from Fall-like briskness to bone-chilling, I-can't-believe-I-don't-own-a-thicker-coat colditude?

It may look pleasant outside, but it's a trap!




Inspir-on the way!

Dell just e-mailed to say that my laptop will ship tomorrow - I should have it on Wednesday or Thursday shipped on Saturday, and I should have it on Tuesday (I didn't read their e-mail closely enough, apparently). I'm excited, but still a little guilty-feeling.

Martina McBride "concert"

Missy and I went to Martina McBride's Joy of Christmas concert super-holiday-extravaganza last night. I can really only describe it as Christmas-themed theater set to Martina McBride music, and it was heavily, heavily over-produced (which means something from someone who went to a stop on the Kiss farewell tour). How was it like theater, you ask? All pre-recorded music (and maybe pre-recorded vocals - you can't really trust anyone), multiple stage and costume changes, a large cast of characters, an intermission to divide the two acts (Act I: Pagan, Act II: Christian), the cast bowing and courtseying after the curtain came down. Also, there were two 5-10 minute segments where we watched McBride home videos on the screen while the stage was empty. Oh, and lots of audience participation - Martina McBride walked through the audience and asked strangers about their favorite Christmas memories, Santa handed out CDs, hundred of kids sat on stage for a multi-song sing-a-long.

It's tough to describe properly, so I found some pictures from a radio station in Nashville that give you a better idea (again, we were sitting to the side of all of this, so I only saw it in profile) -









The worst part of the night, though, happened before the concert. Tickets to this sort of extravaganza, as you might guess, weren't cheap to start with, and I even splurged on the more expensive seats. She's Missy's favorite artist, so I thought it would be a memorable Christmas gift. Missy called me from work Saturday morning, audibly upset - apparently the radio station that the store advertises with brought them two pairs of free tickets. "That's fine," I thought, "because I'm sure our seats will be better than whatever they're giving away." Not so, you naive fool! I don't know where the cheaper seats were, but we were directly to the side of the stage, three rows from the roof. Seats at a concert don't get much crappier than that. To add insult to injury (or near-smothering to annoyance, as it were), I had to lean on Missy during the entire show so that the enormous woman sitting to my left didn't crush me.

Bad experience, good production.

Jingle Bells 10K run

I'm going to use my Saturday afternoon New York Times-coding break to tell you a little something about my race this morning.

The Jingle Bells course is 6.2 miles, starting at the Vilas park shelter, running behind Edgewood, down Monroe St, and through the arboretum. The weather this morning was almost ideal for racing - cold enough that I didn't overheat, but warm enough that two thin layers were enough to keep me comfortable (comfortable, that is, after I started running - I wish I'd had some sort of fur-lined parka for the pre-race standing around). I jingled along at 7:45 miles for my first two, which were pretty flat. About 1/3 of mile #3 was uphill, so I didn't hit the halfway mark until a very jangly 24:45. My goal was 48:00, so I knew I was going to have to push it pretty hard over the last 5K.

Unfortunately, another hill at mile 3.5 slowed me down again, and I didn't hit mile 5 until 40:45. That left me 7:15 jingly minutes to cover 1.2 miles and finish under my goal time. I wasn't oxygen-deprived enough to think that was going to happen, but I decided to give sub-50:00 a jingly-jangly shot. At this point in the race, my reasoning about people passing me had gone from, "damn it - I don't want to get passed" to "well, I suppose I held them off for most of the race".

I entered the finishing chute at 49:20 - 1:20 over my goal time, but 9:15 under last year's time at this race, and 7:28 under my previous personal-best time (Canterbury run, 2003). I guess the time on the treadmill has been paying off.

The thing about being faster, even just a little bit faster, is that there's never any end to it. I haven't come anywhere near a sub-50:00 10K before, but instead of being satisfied, I'm thinking about how I could break 45:00.

This competitive streak is the reason I should be at the top of the North Hall fight club list.

Friday bike blogging

I realize now that static shots of bikes are probably only interesting if you're a cyclist. Since no one that reads this is, this week's Friday bike blogging will be dedicated to the sweaty, muddy, lung-searing crown-jewel of mountaing biking - the race shot.

These are from the WORS (Wisconsin Off-Road Series) race in Sheboygan. WORS began as a pretty low-key series, but it's picked up some corporate sponsors the last couple years (Specialized bikes and Cycle-Ops trainers) and it's a much bigger affair now. Each event sees around 150-200 riders (in four classes) and there are 12 events. WORS also puts on a trail-run series, and it was at a WORS-sponsored event that I won my first-ever gold medal.
















Speaking of debilitating paranoia -

In all my talk about David Icke, I forgot about a crazyperson in my own backyard -
You see [name removed to protect the sane], the people who actually GET IT are the crazies who are sent to the asylums where the Big Nurse, an agent of the combine-mother, tries to fix them and make them "normal."

You have become a servant of the combine-mother. I know you once had the spirit of rebellion in you and it is never too late to turn back.

Your chattels cannot save you [name]. No debt, a house, and two dogs mean nothing in a universe where life could be cut short tomorrow. Lepers and the homeless need you. There are people to defend . . . there are worthier causes waiting over the horizon. Turn back. Turn back Angie. The combine-mother cackles at your affliction and even the winds obey her.

Gabriela X, the enlightened

the secret rulers of the world have stolen my girl

I finished a disc of old-school country, alt-country, southern rock, and twangy pop for Ashley tonight (complete with a photo of me in a cowboy hat on the cover). Although I could tell you which bands on the CD fit into which category, I don't really know the difference between the last three of those. Here's the tracklist:
1. uncle tupelo – no sense in lovin’
2. johnny cash – I hung my head
3. bob dylan – love sick
4. wilco – outtasite (outta mind)
5. cake – i will survive
6. david byrne – ain’t got so far to go
7. drive-by truckers – hell no, i ain’t happy
8. kings of leon – red morning light
9. wilco – casino queen
10. billy bragg and wilco – way over yonder in the minor key
11. loretta lynn – high on a mountain top
12. the thorns – blue
13. cake – stickshifts and safetybelts
14. billy bragg and wilco – hoodoo voodoo
15. drive-by truckers – marry me
16. cadallaca – out west
17. johnny cash – the man comes around
18. kings of leon – molly’s chambers
19. my morning jacket – one big holiday
20. clem snide – the ballad of david icke

David Icke, the namesake of the final track, is a crazyperson - illuminati, New World Order, global conspiracies, mind control, there's-a-man-watching-me-but-then-again-there's-a-man-watching-all-of-us paranoia - they whisked her away in a black limousine, indeed!

RIP Dimebag

From FMQB (and, honestly, Google News):
Dimebag Darrell (real name Darrell Abbott), guitarist for Damageplan, and best-known as the leader of the legendary Heavy Metal outfit Pantera, was one of five people killed during a bizarre shooting spree at a Columbus, Ohio, nightclub last night (12/8). He was 38.

In addition to Dimebag, three others, including two club patrons, Nathan Bray and Erin Halk, plus the unnamed shooter died in the firestorm of bullets.

According to Columbus Police public information officer Sherry Mercurio, Damageplan had just begun their first song in front of a couple hundred fans at the club, Alrosa Villa, when the gunman hopped onstage, allegedly made a comment about Pantera's breakup, and then began firing at close range into Darrell's body, shooting him numerous times before turning his gun on the crowd.

You may remember Dimebag from such Pantera classics as 1992's Vulgar Display of Power, which contains the metal classics "Mouth for War" and "Fucking Hostile".





Lenny Kravitz - Lady

I watched the video for Lenny Kravitz's new song, "Lady", at the gym this morning. It may very well be the lowest point in American song-writing history. Honestly, if you were to take the second derivative, I have no doubt that it would be positive, indicating that the function [f(song)=drivel] is at a minimum. Here - try to guess which of these are lyrics from the song and which were written by a 13-year old 7th-grader in love with his Biology teacher.
I'm crazy for this little lady
I'm freaking for my little baby
'Cause she makes me feel good
She's so fine
Yeah
Don't you know she blows my mind
All the time
'Cause she makes me feel good
Like a real woman should
Yeah
She's so mine
Yeah

I sure like you, lady
yeah, I wish you were my baby
you'd be my lovely lady
and we'd have a baby
yeah
I'm gonna make you mine
and have you all the time
lady!
yeah

Laterial thinking

As you work on your various dissertations, dissertation proposals, and law school crap, it's important to remember the importance of thinking laterally - being creative - refusing to conform - bitch-slapping the combine-mother before she turns us into widgets - thinking outside the bun.

Lateral thinking is an innovative method of solving problems using creative new approaches. It involves stepping back momentarily from a challenge and re-examining your preconceptions. Is there a different way of looking at this? Do the elements involved have meanings I haven't considered? Try these exercises and open your mind to a fresh way of tackling problems.

- - - -

Q. Fred wants to go home but can't because the man in the mask is waiting there, trying to stop him. What is the meaning of this?

A. The answer is simple: Fred is a baseball player! The "home" that he's trying to enter is his houseboat. The man in the mask is an infectious-disease expert who quarantined the place after Fred's wife died of avian flu.

- - - -

Q. An airplane crashes exactly on the border between Arizona and California. The two pilots and seven passengers are not identifiable in any way. How do public officials decide where to bury the survivors?

A. When you reread the question and realize it talks about burying "survivors," the answer is obvious: Only the Mojave Desert is remote enough to prevent anyone from hearing the tormented screams as dirt is shoveled onto their faces.

- - - -

Q. A mother and her two young sons, John and Sam, pass a gumball machine in a shopping mall, and the boys both demand a gumball. The machine has three colors of gumballs: red, white, and green. John doesn't care which color he gets; Sam demands only that he get the same color as his brother. The woman must commit her money to buy the gumballs all at once rather than one at a time. How many must she buy in order to guarantee the boys will be happy?

A. Two. An important part of lateral thinking is examining your false assumptions about the situation. With three colors in the machine, the natural instinct is to answer "four gumballs" as the only way to ensure both John and Sam are satisfied. But not if the boys are blind.

- - - -

Q. A man is found hanging by the neck dangling three feet off the ground in an otherwise empty, locked room. Under his feet is a puddle. What could explain this?

A. The answer is so obvious you probably skipped right over it: The man died of natural causes. As for the puddle on the floor—who knows? Maybe he was shedding tears about a wasted life. The guy's entitled to some privacy.

No title yet though

This afternoon, for the first time in a troublingly-long period of time, I spent some quality time with my dissertation. Like a jilted lover, I've been avoiding her - a little out of shame, a little out of embarrassment, a little out of guilt, and a lot out of frustration. I'm supposed to be working on this project for 2+ years - I'm supposed to become _the_ expert on my topic - I'm supposed to spend crazy-eyed hours talking to strangers on the bus about the anticipatory powers of markets, like Christian Bale in The Machinist, but I've had trouble rekindling my interest in the topic. Spice's reinvigorated research makes me want to get that passion back - it was a good feeling, after all. This afternoon felt good - not great, but solidly good.

This comment from Orfeo on his review of my prospectus makes me feel good too - it's about the best type of compliment you can give me at this point:
Exciting project - interesting theoretically and valuable to the field.

Part of my defense included a timeline of research, and today I realized that everything I had scheduled for this semester (continue literature review, learn more about formal models in Scott's class), I've already accomplished. This makes me feel better. Not a lot better though, because those were pretty unambitious goals. Still, it's good to know that, like a currency market might anticipate a war, I anticipated my lack of productivity and planned for it. Next semester, however, will be a soul-crusher unless I can maintain the rekindled interest I found tonight.

More paper-gradin'

My students turned in their second papers this morning, so prepare yourselves for straw men, overstatements, and all the other hallmarks of undergraduate writing.
When one party has control of several areas of government, it bridges constitutional gaps. Presently, the republicans do represent the majority in many of these areas, which should always be a concern with the party leader. Therefore, as a democrat leader, there needs to be incentive created with the party label. It could be that the chosen Democratic presidential candidate is such a strong choice, that it would only seem obvious to voters that they should also vote Democrats into the other offices listed on the ballot, which would only enhance government. Whether or not it was the lacking of a strong candidate, the Democratic Party did not have party label leverage over their voters.

I know I do

Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be an academic:
To write anything about the liberal bias of college campuses (especially at the elite/ivy league schools) is borderline cliché. After all, when a non-partisan poll of Ivy League professors finds that more than 80 percent of those who voted in 2000 had cast their ballots for Democrat Al Gore while just 9 percent backed Republican George W. Bush, there’s not even much point on writing about it.

From my own experience (as a Yale graduate in May 2004), many professors aren’t teaching, but rather indoctrinating. I’ve had a professor tell a class of 600 students, with a straight face, that if someone doesn’t support affirmative action, he is the moral equivalent of a Klansman.

And after telling a smaller class of students that my car stereo had been stolen (and my window smashed), I suffered through 45 minutes of unanimous lecturing – from the teacher and 90% of the students – that society had forced the thief into his profession. Because we hadn’t provided the individual with a large enough welfare check, a nice enough apartment via public housing, or the job skills necessary to find a well-paying job, he had no choice but to steal car stereos. In this instance, when I explained to the class that countless restaurants and retail establishments had “help wanted signs” in their windows, I was lectured, by the teacher, about how demeaning it would be for someone to take a low-paying job… so I certainly couldn’t expect the thief to go flip burgers.

As tearjerking and anger-inspiring as these possibly-not-made-up anecdotes are, I have to wonder (1) what the context of these situations was, and (2) whether the author has ever been exposed to one of those horribly liberal academics in a psychology course, where he might have learned about perception. I'm willing to bet that every time he goes to class expecting to be offended - get ready for it - HE IS!

Also, and to the larger point, this entire debate dismisses the idea that (1) college teachers are intelligent and considerate enough to present both sides of an issue thoughtfully in order to foster meaningful discussion, and (2) that many social sciences (International Relations, for example) involve courses about theory and are often divorced from contemporary politics. I remember having a conversation with my Intro to International Relations sections last semester about whether terrorists are rational. I argued strongly that they were, which was probably highly offensive to any conservatives in my sections. I presented my argument cogently, however, and the class had a serious discussion about an issue that most of them had not only never considered before, but never considered open for consideration.

Markets won't help the dollar

According to Dan Drezner, who's a capable political scientist even if he was a Bush advisor, there are three reasons that the regular market mechanisms won't help the declining value of the dollar. Traditionally, a declining currency makes imports more expensive for domestic customers and exports less expensive for international customers, bringing the state's currency back into line. In this case, however:
1) U.S. demand for imports is so inelastic that price increases won't have much of an effect.

2) A sizeable chunk of the U.S. deficit is bilateral trade with China, and the dollar's fall has not affected that exchange rate too much.

3) East Asian central banks will only tolerate so much of a fall before they decide to liquidate their dollar reserves, which would trigger a financial panic/run on the dollar/cats and dogs living together/mass hysteria.

In other words, we're not going to solve this economic problem through the traditional mechanisms because we're addicted to cheap Chinese-made products. It's a little like saying that getting a cut in pay will typically reduce your spending, unless your entire paycheck happens to be tied up in rent - not something you can quickly or easily reduce to put your finances in equilibrium again.

This, of course, isn't it

I feel like I should post more, but I haven't done, thought, said, heard, experienced, or proclaimed anything interesting for a while now.

My cats like Missy's box of scrap paper.

Team America is terribly funny, particulary (1) the "panthers" and (2) the montage song.

I have a troubling number of alt-country cds.

Freedom isn't fee. It costs a buck-o-five.

Where is the line between alt-country (Drive-By Truckers, Uncle Tupelo) and twangy-pop (The Thorns, Kings of Leon)?

Jesus christ, they won't leave the box of scrap paper alone.

Gabby is either becoming a Quaker or founding a terrycloth-wearing, mother-combine-worshipping, possibly-all-female hippie club.

It's her x-ian disillusionment phase.

Turkey isn't as cold as I thought

Apparently I'm not as strong-willed as I let on with regard to breaking my caffeine addiction. Did you know that cream soda is caffeinated? I didn't. I bought a 12-pack when I went grocery shopping on Monday night - now there are only four cans left. I'm so ashamed.

Friday bike blogging

In honor of Bianchi's upcoming 120th anniversary, here are three just-released 2005 models. Eduardo Bianchi was responsible for a couple bicycle inventions you may be familiar with, including bikes with the same size front and rear wheels (1886) and pneumatic tires (1888). The story behind the color is that Eduardo was smitten with the queen of England, whose eyes were blue-tinted seafoam green - the color has been the flagship of Bianchi since its inception.

My first real bike was a 2002 Bianchi Campione, in the same celeste and with the same Italian charm that you see on the bikes below. I have lots of memories with that bike - first 100 mile ride, first race, etc - now someone in Seattle is riding it. I've come to terms with sending it away - it really was too entry-level for the kind of riding I do and the last thing I need it one more bike hanging in my basement. It had far more sentimental value than economic value. Missy still has a Bianchi though (2001 Eros), so we're not a celeste-free house.

Chrono - time trial and triathlon bike



Oetzi - hardtail cross-country bike



Pista - fixed-gear track bike


rockin' out

Missy's sister (the one we visited in the hospital over Thanksgiving break) commented that she thinks I have good taste in music, so I offered to burn her a cd. I don't really know what she'll like, so this is a collection of new stuff I really like and some old favorites. Here's what went on Jason Rox Vol. 1 - suggestions for Vol. 2: Neil Young Sings Like a Girl?

1. franz ferdinand – dark of the matinee
2. the shins – young pilgrims
3. old 97’s – northern line
4. modest mouse – float on
5. laura cantrell – sam stone
6. elliott smith – a distorted reality is now a necessity to be free
7. keane – somewhere only we know
8. pavement – stereo
9. the black keys – all hands against his own
10. the decemberists – billy liar
11. interpol – slow hands
12. beastie boys ft q-tip – get it together
13. ambulance ltd – primitive
14. loretta lynn and jack white – portland oregon
15. billy bragg and wilco – walt whitman’s niece
16. the thrills – santa cruz
17. t.v. on the radio – ambulance
18. the postal service – the district sleeps alone tonight
19. belle & sebastian – if you find yourself caught in love
20. zero 7 – in the waiting line

Bun in the oven?

Is Harriet with child? Did she get knocked up? Is she in a family way? I say yes, but other, less observant, people refuse to agree. Go see for yourself and report back.

I heard the father is a grad student.

Crush the rebellion? Well, OK, I think I will!

You could try to convince me that there's not a red-tinted picture of Darth Vader's head behind Bush in this picture, but you would fail.





Here's a picture of Darth Vader for Hannah, who has apparently forgotten what the dark lord of the Sith looks like.




Cold front in Orlando

Missy is in Florida this week on a business trip, so I find myself getting a lot of work done. If you're a married grad student (or in some other self-motivated-type job) you should seriously consider sending your spouse away for a while.

She told me that it's not as warm in Orlando as she expected it would be. I asked her to explain, and she said something to the effect of, "Well, I wore shorts and a tank top all day, but I had to put on a long-sleeve t-shirt after the sun went down." I've had the scrape the car windows the last two mornings, so she's not getting any sympathy from me.

Jittery Joe's revenge

I feel like I'm having a two-day hangover - my head feels constricted, my temper is short, I'm having trouble concentrating, etc... It's all for a greater good though, right? RIGHT?!?

Jittery Joe off my back

Today is the first day of my caffeine-free existence - cold-turkey, in honor of thanksgiving. There were two days in Nebraska this weekend that I went without coffee and they were painful - headaches, shakiness, etc - which made me realize the level of my addiction. I really enjoy the taste and smell of coffee though, so I don't think that Espresso Royale will see much of a impact on their bottom line.

Nebraska blogging?

Missy and I are leaving for Nebraska early tomorrow morning, so unless I get a chance to some Nebraska-blogging, the site will be inactive for a few days.

Happy thanksgiving, and may Santa Turkey bless us, every one!

With the Lights Out

Nirvana's 3 CD, 1 DVD box set came out today, full of unreleased tracks, early demos, acoustic versions, live versions, random screaming, etc. I don't have a great first-time-hearing-Smells-Like-Teen-Spirit story, but I do remember watching MTV for hours at a time to see the video (crazy sweaters! Evil cheerleaders! That opening riff!), and I remember my Mom telling me that "some rock and roll guy" whose name sounded familiar to her had committed suicide.

You should share your Nirvana memories too - here, on a semi-random website, where no one will make fun of you when you talk about crying every time you hear All Apologies.

I'll be in the car for 9 hours on the way to Nebraska tomorrow, so I think I'll go pick it up for company. You'll get a full review when I return.

What's the Matter with Kansas redux

I know of three readers of this site who are in the middle of this book, so I'll keep my comments brief and abstract - I don't want to shape their opinions. I will say, though, that my earlier praise may have been given in too much haste. Frank's book is divided in two sections - Part I (which I had just finished when I wrote the last post) is an argument for why the economic interests of rural Americans lie with the Democratic party. Part II is about how conservatives have used social issues to build grassroots support for economic programs that hurt the people voting for them. Before reading the book, this second topic was far more interesting to me than the first. Frank can't pull it off, however, and I'm a little disappointed in him for it. I'm going to wait until other people finish the book to elaborate.

Hee.




Breaking news out of NW Wisconsin

**Five Dead, Three Injured After Confrontation Between Hunters**

This happened yesterday afternoon and is getting some national attention today. It looks like the entire story isn't out yet, but you can find some of the details here.

The story so far:
The violence began in Sawyer County in the Township of Meteor, also known as the Blue Hills area. Just before noon Sunday, a group of hunters staying at a private deer camp was heading back to its cabin, when they saw another hunter occupying their tree stand.

Sheriff's deputies say a confrontation ensued and shooting followed. “One of the men was injured, he had a walkie talkie and was able to radio back to the deer camp what was going on, people from the camp went to the scene where they were shot and killed,” says Sawyer County Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle.

Officials say the victims were shot with a semi–automatic assault rifle. Four men and one woman died in the shooting.


What's the Matter with Kansas?

I'm planning to write a much longer post when I finish Thomas Frank's new book, but I wanted to quote a representative passage. He's writing about the battle between wealthy, moderate Republicans and less wealthy, conservative Republicans for control of Kansas - from U.S. Senators to local committee chairs. In the end, however, the economic policies of the latter serve the interests of the former, so "the moderates win even when they lose."

From page 109:
The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistably against the arrogant. They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege. They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawood toffs. They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. "We are here," they scream, "to cut your taxes."

I'm about 1/3 through the book so far, and it's been exceptionally good. Not only well-written and humorous, but thoroughly researched and well-argued. It's $14.40 at Amazon right now - click the link above, buy a CD so that you get $25 SuperSaver shipping, and order it for yourself.

Some bad goings-on in the Washington Post today

Today's Washington Post contained an advertising supplement written and paid for by BothSides.org, which bills itself as, "a magazine created for the sole purpose of giving the faith community a voice in the issues that impact our family, culture, and world. We offer a perspective that is widely held by millions of Americans, but is often not well represented in the media." Is about about the teachings of Jesus - feeding the hungry, helping the poor, aiding the suffering, loving the outcasts? Nope - it's about how those damn gays think they're entitled to rights.

Download the pdfs here:
Section 1
Section 2
Section 3

There are some choice bits of race-baiting and some laughable scientific misunderstandings - for example, did you know that homosexuality can't - simply cannot - be genetic, because same-sex couples can't reproduce? I think I remember covering recessive genes in high school, but maybe I went to one of those liberal, hippie rural Nebraskan high schools. In the Q&A, you'll find tolerant Christian teachings such as:

Q: What's wrong with letting homosexuals get married?
A: Everything.

Q: Isn't it true that what kids need most are loving parents, regardless of whether the parent is a mother or father?
A: No.

You'll also be interested to know that a same-sex marriage ban in the constitution wouldn't restrict the rights of anyone! After all, "a heterosexual man and a homosexual man both have the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, and many have." I...uh...I...wow. I don't think I even have a comment for that.

Right now on CSPAN2

This is sweet. The Democrats and lots of moderate Republicans are railing on the leadership for amendments to the must-pass spending bill - including one amendment that would exempt hospitals and doctors from providing abortion counseling and another that would allow Senate committee chairs to request individuals' IRS returns. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) just said, "If one party is shameless, the other can't afford to be spineless," and then spoke at length about women's rights while showing a photo of GOP senators standing around Bush as he signed the D&E abortion ban. Now McCain is talking about the larger problem - must-pass omnibus spending bills that are hundreds or thousands of pages long, with amendments slipped in the night before a vote. I don't know why more people don't watch CSPAN.

pearl jam - rearviewmirror

Pearl Jam released rearviewmirror, a two-disc greatest hits collection, on Tuesday and I can't decide what I think of it.

On one hand, I get new remixes of Once, Alive, and Black, all of which sound better than the original album tracks. On the other hand, does it mean that my favorite band is washed up if they're releasing a greatest hits album? U2 and REM just did, and I suppose I wouldn't call them washed up. I guess I have to resign myself to the fact that Pearl Jam just isn't cutting edge anymore, and probably haven't been for over a decade.

Every fan has to play the I-can't-believe-they-left-"blah"-off game, so I will too. Even though the album has my favorite fast song (Rearviewmirror) and my favorite slow song (Betterman), as well as studio versions of State of Love and Trust and Yellow Ledbetter, I was disappointed not to see Crazy Mary or Thin Air. I would have been more than happy to see Last Kiss ditched for either one of those.

Overall though, I think it's a solid collection, even though I'm clearly not the target audience. The most troubling part of listening to it was the track order - I can't help singing the opening bars of Glorified G after Daughter, or Oceans after Jeremy, etc - basically the same story for every song on either disc.

lame-o-rama

Man, my blog is lame, huh? Want evidence? I just pasted a quote from an MSNBC anchor that I took from another blog, so you're actually thrice removed from the action. I need more original material.

The Rude One - funny and/or/but insightful

Two quotes from the Rude Pundit that I want to share - the first about some people on the right using Rice's race as a smokescreen (I'm not sure that's the word I want - I may be editing this post) for ineffective advising, and the second about a fine bit of editorializing by MSNBC's Dan Abrams. The first is funny and the second is insightful - but that's not to say that the first isn't insightful and the second isn't funny. OK, the second isn't funny. Well, not funny in a ha-ha kind of way. More like funny in a hey-he's-right-and-it's-so-rare-that-you-hear-someone-say-that-kind-of-thing-on-TV kind of way. Is that a way of being funny? If not, then the second isn't funny. But the first is still insightful.
Logic might dictate that opposition to Rice and Thomas actually demonstrates an ability to look beyond race, that color doesn't matter if your views are radical or your actions are pathetic. But you would be living in a world in which logic is an answer to batshit insanity, and that is not Coulter's, nor, indeed, the rest of the right's world.

Abrams explained, "When you hear a media figure attack or snidely remark about the elite media, ask yourself, is this person really part of the blue-collar media? Is his or her salary about what mine is? Can he or she really understand what I have to endure or is this just a faux populist charade? Most of the time it is an effort by some to pretend that they are different, that they are just average Joes fighting for the little guy. It's like a lifelong politician accusing his or her opponent of engaging in politics as usual." Abrams ended with, "I regularly criticize certain lawyers and TV hosts, but I don't try to pretend that I'm not one of them. I'm going to be straight about it. I'm a member of the media and I'm a lawyer, two of the most hated professions around. I am what I am."

Boo.

This is lame. If you don't have the legs to ride a double, then don't spend $5,000 on a bike.

NOVEMBER 15, 2004 -- HEERENVEEN, Netherlands (BRAIN)--Shimano just laid out an ace with the announcement of a upcoming Dura-Ace triple crankset, playing to the hand of riders who want top-end equipment but whose legs don't match their mountains.

"We all want to ride like a pro, but let's face it: Not everybody has the legs for it," said Harald Troost, press officer for Shimano Europe.

"Since the introduction of our new Dura-Ace group last year, we have been receiving strong requests for a triple version. Well, it will be there," Troost said.

This post was elitist and judgmental. More people on bikes = good.

Scorcher

Here's a completely different type of bike porn. No carbon or titanium bits here, just old-skool steel - steel, history, and tradition.

From USA Today's gift guide -
"Before the Wright Brothers learned to fly, the Dayton, Ohio, residents made and sold their own line of high-quality bicycles. One of the most-popular models was the Scorcher, a fixed-gear, no-brakes speedster that earned its name by 'scorching' through traffic, which at that time consisted of horse-drawn wagons and pedestrians. Now another Dayton resident has revived the Scorcher, but with some modern upgrades to keep it rolling safely through the packs of Hummers and Hyundais that now crowd the roads."


Gaansari Scorcher


Bike porn friday

Atrios blogs cats, Dan Drezner blogs his baby - I'm present to you Bike Porn Friday!













aka fist-bump

McSweeney's has recommended the fourth-year fist-bump, which they've titled, "Punching it in" - it's nice to see that something our cohort invented has such widespread popularity.
Punching it in
When something good happens or someone says something you firmly agree with, invite them to bump fists with you, knuckle to knuckle. All the fun of giving five, but less dorky. Addictive.

Certain readers should note that they have also recommended the .5mm mechanical pencil. They don't mention its vast superiority to the .7mm version, but some things are so obvious that they need not be stated.
PaperMate Clickster .5 mm mechanical pencil
Comfortable in the hand, with excellent lead advancement via index-finger clicking. Very little wasted lead. Top notch.
After apparently reading over my shoulder, Stephan just told me that it's "hilarious that [I] have a blog."

I should be working

Blogging is my break from working - read NYT articles for an hour, post for five minutes.

The New Republic has a really fascinating article on undecided voters in Wisconsin (!). If you have an account with TNR, you can read the full text here, but I'm posting a few of my favorite excerpts below -
Undecided voters do care about politics; they just don't enjoy politics...The mere fact that you're reading this article right now suggests that you not only think politics is important, but you actually like it. You read the paper and listen to political radio and talk about politics at parties. In other words, you view politics the way a lot of people view cooking or sports or opera: as a hobby. Most undecided voters, by contrast, seem to view politics the way I view laundry. While I understand that to be a functioning member of society I have to do my laundry, and I always eventually get it done, I'll never do it before every last piece of clean clothing is dirty, as I find the entire business to be a chore. A significant number of undecided voters, I think, view politics in exactly this way: as a chore, a duty, something that must be done but is altogether unpleasant, and therefore something best put off for as long as possible.

To be sure, maybe they simply thought Kerry's promise to bring in allies was a lame idea--after all, many well-informed observers did. But I became convinced that there was something else at play here, because undecided voters extended the same logic to other seemingly intractable problems, like the deficit or health care. On these issues, too, undecideds recognized the severity of the situation--but precisely because they understood the severity, they were inclined to be skeptical of Kerry's ability to fix things. Undecided voters, as everyone knows, have a deep skepticism about the ability of politicians to keep their promises and solve problems. So the staggering incompetence and irresponsibility of the Bush administration and the demonstrably poor state of world affairs seemed to serve not as indictments of Bush in particular, but rather of politicians in general.

Occasionally I did encounter undecided voters who were genuinely cross-pressured--a couple who was fiercely pro-life, antiwar, and pro-environment for example--but such cases were exceedingly rare. More often than not, when I asked undecided voters what issues they would pay attention to as they made up their minds I was met with a blank stare, as if I'd just asked them to name their favorite prime number...The undecideds I spoke to didn't seem to have any intuitive grasp of what kinds of grievances qualify as political grievances. Often, once I would engage undecided voters, they would list concerns, such as the rising cost of health care; but when I would tell them that Kerry had a plan to lower health-care premiums, they would respond in disbelief--not in disbelief that he had a plan, but that the cost of health care was a political issue. It was as if you were telling them that Kerry was promising to extend summer into December.


Now, back to work for both of us!

So Cynical and sarcastic, so yummy...

Here's Digby's take on Bush's plan to give small businesses one less incentive to provide health insurance -

the administration is thinking of dropping the business tax deduction for empoyer-provided health insurance in order to pay for making interest, dividends and capitals gains tax free.

I don't know what he's so unhappy about, though. George W. Bush is just trying to empower the working man here. With those fancy new medical savings accounts, the guy who works at Pep Boys and his wife who works in the hospital gift shop will be able to save the 10k a year (tax free!) to pay for his wife and 2 kids' health insurance. Then he'll be a member of the ownership society because he'll own his own health insurance policy. Isn't that great?

I'm assuming, of course, that if employers drop health insurance they will then be required to give their employees a raise in the amount of what they were paying for their health care, less the tax break. They will do that, won't they? Of course they will. Otherwise, these working people will be forced to "save" money that they don't have. That wouldn't be right.

But if that happens let's face it, if you can't afford to make ends meet that's what churches are for. Be good and maybe you'll be allowed some charity. (Or you'll be allowed to pray for some, anyway.) Meanwhile, just work harder. Like our good ole boy, Real American president who knows the meaning of hard earned dollar. He's tough, tough, tough and we have to be tough just like him. Why, a real man would rather gnaw off his leg or put his wife out of her misery than have his boss pay for his health insurance. This whole issue is an excuse for lazy Democrat losers looking for a handout.

Bush and Biscuits

"Well, hello there! What are you - some kind of a duck?"




Who's out of touch?

You're waiting patiently to find out how to finish putting your watches on, but you're going to have to bear with me while I post about another story. I believe Spice will enjoy this -

Candy Crowley of CNN notes that we have to take green tea states into account as we draw the post-election map. If you said, "huh?" you're on the right track -
During a luncheon speech Monday to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley shared an early memory from the campaign trail that may explain why John Kerry will not be president next year.

In January 2003, when his campaign was still young enough that Kerry would actually sit down with reporters in a relaxed setting, he and Crowley met for breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Dubuque, Iowa.

"I'd like to start out with some green tea," Kerry told the waitress, who stared at him for a moment before responding, "We have Lipton's."

Lipton's would be fine, Kerry said, but the memory stayed with Crowley.

"There were many green tea instances," she told the sell-out crowd of 450 at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion. "There's a very large disconnect between the Washington politicians and most of America and how they live. Bush was able to bridge that gap, and Kerry was not."

If the Democrats hope to regain the White House, she said, they will have to close the green tea gap.

As MediaMatters notes, however-
But green tea may not be quite the highbrow delicacy Crowley seems to think. In fact, Lipton itself makes more than a half-dozen different varieties of green tea. Lipton's website even reveals that green tea accounts for 20 percent of all tea produced. And, according to Lipton's product locator, you can buy green tea in Dubuque, Iowa, at that gourmet market known as ... Kmart.

So, who is the real out-of-touch elitist -- John Kerry, for drinking green tea, or Candy Crowley, for assuming that simple Iowa folk couldn't possibly be familiar with the beverage?

it's like magic, but magic that any fool can do

I took off my watch in game theory tonight so that I could put it on the table upside down (because I look at it too much during Scott's lectures - that's why). When I put it back on a few minutes later (because I realized that time doesn't really go any faster when I'm not looking at it - that's why), I realized what a complicated hand movement it takes to do a watch strap. It's so fluid and graceful though - like watching a tiny little acrobat at the Cirque du Soleil, but my fingers are the acrobat and my watch is the giant watch that the acrobat is putting around a giant wrist.

As an exercise in frustration, I'm going to try to describe it in steps. If you know anyone that uses a slip-on watch because they don't know how do do a belt-type band, feel free to share this how-to guide.

1) Drape the watch over your left wrist so that the sides of the band are hanging down. Your wrist should be parallel with the floor and diagnol with the trunk of your body(note: I'm assuming you're right-handed and wear your watch on your left wrist. If that's not right, you're a circus freak.)

2) Place the pad of your right middle finger on the side of far side of the band, your right index finger on the other side of the far band with the band pressed between the nail of your index finger and the pad of your middle finger. With the pad of your thumb, press the close side of the band toward the pad of your index finger. You should now be making something that looks like a double-decker sandwich - thumb-band-index-band-middle.

Missy wants to go eat, so this will have to be continued later. Practice this part so that you have it down before we get to step #3 (which looks like it will be really complicated).

ipod pressure

I'm being pressured to buy an ipod, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. I like the idea of easily-accessible, highly-portable music, but I don't like the idea of digital music replacing music in forms that I can touch. Also, Travis tells me that the biggest benefit of owning an ipod is becoming part of the white-cord community - with the knowing nods and the snobbery and such. But here's the question - does my music snob cred really benefit from joining this community? Or am I better off pretending that I won't buy anything that's not on vinyl and listening to it on my hi-fi?

But don't stare at the sun while you're out there

Turn it off and go outside.

Researchers warned that there could be a drastic rise in the number of glaucoma cases if action was not taken to evaluate people who spend long time in front of screens and have existing eye conditions. "Computer stress is reaching higher levels than have ever been experienced before," the team from the Toho University School of Medicine in Tokyo said.

Drink the Kool-Aid - it's grape!

In a post about the recent self-immolation outside the White House, the authors of Powerline suggest that, "if the Michael Moore brigades had any decency, they would follow this gentleman's inspirational example"

Some text from the Washington Post article:

Mohamed Alanssi, 52, approached the northwest guardhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue about 2:05 p.m. and asked the security detail to deliver a note to President Bush. When uniformed Secret Service officers turned him away, he stepped about 15 feet from the guard post and used a lighter to ignite his jacket, according to the U.S. Park Police.

Secret Service officers wrestled him to the ground and doused the flames with fire extinguishers. Alanssi was taken to Washington Hospital Center, where he was listed in critical condition with burns over about 30 percent of his body, authorities said.

In the recent interviews, Alanssi expressed anguish over not being able to visit his family in Yemen. He said that he suffers from diabetes and heart problems and that his wife is seriously ill with stomach cancer. Alanssi said he could not travel to his native country because he has no money and because the FBI, which is expecting him to testify at a terrorism trial in New York, was keeping his Yemeni passport.

I'm gorgeous

I wore my new single-breasted, three-button navy sportcoat to school today and I have to say that I looked fab-u-lous!

Welcome to reader #3!

Please welcome Gabby to the fold! Gabby is an illegal Mexican immigrant who cleans houses and cooks tacos for rich white people. Or she's a law student. But illegal either way.

More mind vomit

For your reading pleasure:

"Almost everyone is aware of how low the United States of America's (US's or America's) voting turnout has been, whether they found out by word of mouth or by having a course designed specifically to provide political information and awareness. This is a very interesting thing considering the US has had one of the most effective forms of political government, Democracy with allows its people to have an electing voice in politics, for years now. With this in mind one would think otherwise, not every country give it's citizens this right, yet here in Americans sometimes over half of the people eligible choose not to vote and/or are ignorant to the American electorate. Amongst other things this is a huge problem that causes reactions all around the world. There have been many documented and undocumented opinions with this very problem as its muse."

I'm having the urge to vote!

I spent the entire weekend - around 20 hours - grading my undergrads' first six-page essay. I have a hard time believing some of them have ever put finger to keyboard before, and I'd like to write a letter to their respective high school english teachers.

Problem 1 - Overwrought, flowery language
Let's say that I'm an undergrad and I want to write, "I was surprised that Bush and Kerry didn't refer to civil liberties more often during the debate." Through the combination of trying-desperately-to-make-my-paper-six-pages-long and wanting-to-sound-more-intelligent-than-I-am, what comes out is, "I, along with all American Citizens, were shocked and appalled at the irrefutable fact that President George W. Bush and Democratic Nominee U.S. Senator John F. Kerry failed within regard to their constitutional duty as president nominees to speak about Civil Liberties, which are a fundamental and unarguable portion of the American political scheme."

Problem 2 - Mind vomit
Here's an answer that I was given to a question about whether non-voters give voters more influence -
"If more people new more about politics then more people would go out and vote. Part of the reason that poeple do not vote these days is because they just don't care anymore. The reason that they don't care is that they do not have any idea who it is they are actually voting for. Not a whole lot of people now what political views Senator John Kerry has or what political views make him different from President George W. Bush. The problem is this country does not seem to care what views each candidate has because in general the public does not care about politics. The public should care about politics because they got the right to vote for their leader. Many countries do not have this right. The right is one of the greatest rights we have and is one that not many people care about these days but should. The voter turnout is so low these days because people do not know enough about politics to care about voting. If more people knew more about politics then more people would vote. In many cases, many of the people that don't vote don't even know who they could vote for or even what position it is for. This is an issue that is absolutely disgusting and hows that people just don't care who is in power of this country. I am sure that deep down inside they care who actually is in power in this country. We are lucky that we actually get to pick our leaders. Other countries are not so lucky and have to live with evil dictators. The opportunity to be able to vote in the country, however, is wasted because people in the general sense do not know enough about politics to have the urge to vote"