Then someone should contact Child Protective Services -

"It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child. I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."
—White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, September 1, 2004

Sarah Schweitzer, "Card Says President Sees America as a Child Needing a Parent," Boston Globe, September 2, 2004.

waiting for the call

My father-in-law called last night to tell my wife and I that her grandmother doesn't have more than a couple days left to live. My wife is in Nevada on a business trip, so I had to relay the message to her. Grandma Betty has been in a nursing home with full-time medical attention for as long as I've known my wife (more than seven years), but it still comes as a shock. Yesterday afternoon she developed some internal bleeding and has asked her doctors not to take her to the hospital and not to give her another blood transfusion. The medical staff at the nursing home has already told the family to come in and say their goodbyes as soon as possible. With my wife in Las Vegas, it's my job to wait for the phone call that says she passed away. Why is it still a surprise and why is it so hard to hear - especially when it's not a surprise and it's probably for the best?

Democracy gettin' some action

Hee - I've signed the pledge, have you?

Warning: you probably shouldn't open in front of your children, boss, or the children of your boss. Unless they're cool.

A different Stacie, a different 30 years

I spent the weekend in Omaha - seeing a few friends from college, racing mountain bikes, and celebrating my friend Jason's new girlfriend Stacie's 30th birthday party. It was a soul-crushing drive across Iowa, but ultimately a good time.

The party on Saturday night made me realize how easy those of us who teach college have it and how unfounded (by comparison) our complaints about students are. Stacie teaches 7th grade at McMillan middle school, which is in the poor section of north Omaha. There are often fights in her classroom, her students have been arrested during school hours, some of them have abusive or drug-addicted parents, and the school administration has virtually written off college (or, in many cases, high school) for most of them. She told me a story about two of her boys that are desparate to play in the band - perhaps their ticket to college. They couldn't play in the elementary band because they couldn't afford to buy their own instruments, they can't play in the junior high band because they weren't in the elementary band, and they won't be able to play in the high school band because they didn't play in junior high. She's planning to put up flyers in local music stores to find a volunteer to teach them. What do I do for my students?

I also met a smart, funny, engaging woman named Tammy (or perhaps Tammi - I didn't ask) who teaches freshman Spanish, ESL Biology and tennis at Omaha North high school. She left a relatively well-paying job at a rural catholic school to teach inner-city kids who rarely appreciate what she does for them. Teachers like Tammy should be paid like lawyers, idolized like astronauts (or perhaps professional wrestlers), and respected like college professors.

Why do we treat our teachers so poorly? Why do we pay them just above poverty-level wages? Why is education policy/funding such a low priority?

Here's how we guarantee a pro-U.S. government in Iraq

From today

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has suggested that parts of Iraq might be excluded from elections set for January because of rising violence.

That violence continued on Friday, as U.S. warplanes pounded targets in the Sunni Triangle town of Falluja and at least four Iraqis were killed and 10 others wounded in an attack by insurgents in Baghdad.

On Thursday, Rumsfeld had expressed optimism that elections will push through as scheduled.

But at a U.S. Senate Committee hearing he raised the possibility polls might not be held in all of Iraq.

"Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great," Rumsfeld said, hours after the leaders of the United States and Iraq met in Washington.

"Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," he said. (Full story)

On Friday, Rumsfeld is set to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who is in the United States. The two are expected to talk about security as insurgents in Iraq use suicide bombings, hostage-takings, beheadings and other tactics to block Iraq's progress.

Trying to put an upbeat face on the future of his young government, besieged by the insurgency, Allawi is attempting to drum up support for Iraq at the United Nations, where the General Assembly is meeting, and in Washington, where he addressed Congress and met with President Bush.

The interim prime minister has repeatedly vowed that the violence endured by Iraq will not deter the upcoming balloting.

He said that if elections were held today, they could be staged effectively in 15 of the country's 18 provinces, and cited South Africa, Sierra Leone and Indonesia as nations where elections were held despite violence.

Former Harvard president (1909-1933) Abbott Lawrence Lowell:

"Of course there's a lot of knowledge in universities: the freshmen bring a little in; the seniors don't take much away, so knowledge sort of accumulates."

Vengeance shall be mine!

EFF is now my sworn enemy - for reasons that I'm a too furious to go into detail about right now. The reason is 19 and apparently dressed like a Young Republican today.

We'll probably need a van

I saw the Black Keys play at the High Noon Saloon last night, and like after every good rock show, this morning I want to ditch academia, get serious about playing my guitar, start a band, and go on tour. I feel a lot of connection with indie musicians - setting your own course with a low probability of success and poverty-level wages. We're soul brothers, the Black Keys and I.

If you don't have Rubber Factory, you must be some sort of ascetic.

Need to add $13.01 to your order to qualify for Super-Saver shipping? How about The Libertines? Or perhaps The Killers?


Shelley Jackson's "skin"

Some of you have seen my word, which I'm kind of proud of (the tattoo, not the fact that you've seen it). I realized a few minutes ago that I hadn't checked in with Ms. Jackson for a number of weeks, and have yet to send her the photos of my tattoo. After reading her page, I'm glad that I sent my application as soon as I did, because it looks like she's been overwhelmed with interest.

If you haven't read it, I'd recommend her book of essays - The Melancholy of Anatomy

Ralph Nader - America's crapweaseliest candidate

Who is this "Ralph Nader" and why should I "vote" for him, you ask? Let me tell you a little about him...

Ralph is famous for many accomplishments, but most of all he is known for his excellent work voicing the character Snarf from "Thundercats."

Ralph invented the seatbelt, though his original intention was to trap his worst enemy in a burning vehicle. He later defeated said enemy by bicycle kicking him off of a cliff.

When Ralph learned that Starfleet Command was compromised by mind-controlling alien brain worms, he took action to prevent it from happening to America. Thanks to his tireless efforts, an independent committee regularly screens elected officials for the presence of alien brain slugs.

Ralph is so adapt at living on small sums of money he never has to tap into his gigantic bank account. In an interview he revealed that he's saving his money up for a solid gold submarine so that he might one day explore his oceanic roots in regal fashion.

Ralph is famous for the book "Unsafe at Any Speed," a thrilling cyberpunk-meets-fantasy story about people downloading their brains into cars and competing in illegal psychological street races.
Are you on campus right now? Do your tummy a favor and feed it a cup of potato and corn chowder from the Ingraham deli. It's top-notch!

Props to Best Buy

I've heard and said some bad things about Best Buy in the past, but I'm kind of warm and fuzzy for them right now.

Our camera (an Eos Rebel) had an electronic malfunction last week, so my wife took it to Best Buy this morning to find out whether and how we could get it repaired. We bought it last June, so the manufacturer's warranty expired about three months ago. We love the camera though, so we were willing to pay for the repair.

Not five minutes ago, my wife e-mails to say that Best Buy replaced our camera with a brand new one at no charge and without the slightest hassle! Thanks Best Buy! I still hate you for driving local music stores out of business, but that's some pretty rockin' customer service.

Say it ain't so, Tyler!

Just a couple months after my favorite cyclist, David Miller, was busted for using a performance-enhancing drug called EPO, another one of my favorite riders is under a cloud of suspicion:

Tyler Hamilton shows inconsistencies in blood test

What's the answer? Do I give up on cycling? Just learn to enjoy it as a drug-ridden spectacle - like professional wrestling? Hope that the UCI just makes all performance-enhancing drugs legal in order to level the playing field? Start using EPO myself?

mysteries of the cosmos

Why do I get a headache after drinking lukewarm coffee?

Little room

When you're in your little room and you're working on somethin' good, what if it's really good? You're gonna need a bigger room. When you're in your bigger room you might not know what to do. You might have to think of how you got started, sittin' in your little room.

Indiana Jones - cold-blooded murderer?

The long-awaited, highly-anticipated Star Wars DVD boxed set comes out today. Apparently one of my favorite scenes in the first movie has been digitally altered - again. The scene is early in the film - Han Solo and a bounty hunter named Greedo are sitting in the Cantina. The conversation goes a little something like this:

Greedo: "Jabba's through with you. He has no time for smugglers who
drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser."

Han: "Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?"

Greedo: "You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship"

Han: "Over my dead body."

Greedo: "That's the idea. I've been looking forward to killing you for a long time."

Han: "Yeah, I'll bet you have."

At this point in the original version of the movie, Han shoots Greedo under the table, apologizes to the bartender for the mess, and leaves. George Lucas, not wanting viewers to think Han a murderer, changed the scene in the 1997 special edition so that Greedo shoots first. Now, instead of murdering Greedo, Han just kills him in self-defense. Boo, George Lucas, boo. I haven't seen the further-manipulated DVD version, but I hear that the scene has been changed so that the blaster exchange is "more ambiguous".

The Sound of Music

The local music scene in Madison tends to go through drought periods - months with no one I'd like to see coming to town. And then there are periods like the next four weeks -

Tonight - Fiery Furnaces - Annex

Tuesday - Decemberists - Luther's Blues

Wednesday - Black Keys - High Noon Saloon

Next Wednesday - Yo La Tengo - Union Terrace

Early October - Wilco - Orpheum

The Finest Bumper Sticker in the Land!

Seen on a Honda Civic in Madison's Frances Street lot and available for purchase at -

Getting long in the tooth

I was born a quarter-century ago today, which sounds a lot older to me than saying that I'm 25.

This is a milestone birthday for two reasons: (1) I can rent a car now, and (2) I'm officially older than both of my parents were in 1979 when I was born. That's really scary to me, because I am in no way, shape, or form mature or responsible enough to be responsible for raising a child. I don't think my parents read this, but if you do - Mom and Dad, thanks for not dropping me on my head. I will rent responsible, safe, fuel-efficient automobiles in your honor.

Think about my parents having a child when they were younger than me made me think about what I've accomplished in 25 years. I've married an amazing woman who puts up with far more stupid jokes than she should, I have a master's degree (although still one less than Stacey!), I have the go-ahead to work on my dissertation, I've had an Ironman finisher's medal put around my neck, I've helped people I love deal with tragedy, I've been told that children like me, I think I've made a lot of friends (many of whom I would be happy to be a visual deterrent for in the case of crazy people), and in the 2000 Iowa caucus I helped Steve Forbes get mentioned on the news (a fun story that begins with "Don't count out Steve Forbes yet...").

As I started listing things, I realized that almost everything on it happened in the last few years. What was I doing before I was 20? Or do my pre-20 accomplishments just seem insignificant as I get older? Does that mean my 25-30 accomplishments will make these seem silly?

Blog, Jr.

For an entirely different type of blog, check out my Ultramax blog.

2,000 idiots in 13 hours, and I'm disappointed that I'm not joining them

The field for next September's Ironman Wisconsin took less than 13 hours to fill, with many athletes signing up less than 12 hours after finishing the 2004 race. I'm planning to do a different Ironman in 2005, but I'm having some pangs of regret for not signing up for the hometown race instead. There are so many reasons to do UltraMax in Kansas City instead of Ironman Wisconsin, but I won't get to have that amazing finishing picture with the glowing capitol building in the background again. That makes me a little sad.

I know that some TNOers read this, so I want to say congratulations to all of this weekend's finishers and good luck to those of you who signed up for '05. It's a little cliched, but enjoy the journey!

Like Taft, only not the president

Al Gore needs to quit with the 2 a.m. Frosty runs to Wendy's -
Fat Albert
Near the part of Madison where I used to live, there's an open area called Quann Park. It's a multi-use open area, with a public garden, soccer field, and no-leash dog exercise field. I heard on the news last night that the local Hmong community is asking the city for permission to increase the size of the garden area so that they can expand their vegetable plots. From what I understand, these are vegetables that are being grown to feed families - a sustenance crop, rather than a hobby or something to overcharge people for at the farmers' market. A group of dog owners named "Quann for Dogs" is opposing the expansion, saying that it wouldn't be fair to increase the size of the gardens at their (well, their dogs') expense.

Although I don't have one of my own, I love dogs - ask Sophie's parents - but I can't understand how people can prioritize their dogs' exercise area over a large group's ability to feed their children. It's not as if the Hmong group is proposing to get rid of the dog park altogether, or that Quann Park is the only leash-free dog exercise area in the area.

I suppose there are larger, more important political issues I should be writing about instead, but this one really irks me.

What did I get myself into?

I don't know how to mountain bike and I'm a slow runner. What did I do this morning? A DIY duathlon - the Trail Run Series long course run and the Wisconsin Off-Road Series mountain bike race. I posted a race report on if you want to find out how it turns out -

Race Report


Maybe he's an idiot, and maybe he doesn't understand the separation of church and state, but Bush cares about keeping us safe from terrorism, right? Or, just maybe, does he have an altogether different set of priorities? Perhaps ones that involve keeping the ignorant fearful? From the newest issue of Mother Jones:

It would take an estimated $6 billion to provide adequate protection for the nation's commuter trains; Bush's budget allocated $100 million. It would take $3 billion to equip all airports to screen baggage for explosives; Bush's budget allocated $400 million. By comparison, the United States spends $3 billion in Iraq every ten days.

Now, admittedly, Mother Jones is not an impartial source, I don't know where these estimated funding levels are from, and I don't know how they're defining adequate protection, so let's say that they've grossly inflated the numbers and the correct estimates are half of what they say. If they've doubled the true amount it would cost to protect just these two areas, Bush has budgeted 3.3% and 26.7% of what it would really take to keep the U.S. safe from terrorism.

Bush on the War on Terror

I don't have sources for these (bad academic - bad!) but I pulled them from an online forum and thought they were great.

Bush claims we can win the war on terror:
"One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can." [4/13/04]

Except that the war on terror is unwinnable:
"I don't think you can win [the war on terror]." [8/30/04]

But we'll win it anyway:
"Make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win [the war on terror]." [8/31/04]

Sloop John B

I just realized that the kitchenette at my summer job has those little sugar packets with drawings of ships on one side and a description of that ship on the other. There must be a dozen different ships! I haven't seen one of those for years!

I remember being a little kid and going to the local diner in Brunswick, NE with my Mom and sister after she got off work. They had the ship-themed sugar packets and I clearly remember walking from table to table to find all the different ships and then lining them up at our table. I read about all the ships - their histories, why they were designed the way they were, etc.

I haven't though about that for years, but I realize now that must have been the origin of my lifelong love of sailing. I captain an 18-foot German-style schooner, and if anyone can find the sugar packet of my baby (and is willing to part with it), shoot me an e-mail.

He's up.....aaaaand...yes, he's over the hurdle!

On Tuesday, 8/31, I officially defended my dissertation proposal and became ABD (latin translation: lost and confused). I guess, officially, I've been working on my dissertation for the last three days. Here's the thing, though - I have no idea how to write a dissertation. Where do I start on something this big? "The longest journey starts with the first step" blah, blah, blah - it's a pretty useless platitude in this situation.

I'm torn between being happy that I've cleared another academic hurdle, and being depressed that I'm aimless in grad school once again.