Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Playing Against Type

1. From the picture above and from years of watching the show, it seemed like Jack Klugman was older--not by a lot, but older. In fact, Tony Randall was two years older.

2. Yes, I realize that the characters played are not like the actors. But still, can you imagine the show working if the roles were reversed? In fact, Klugman was a lifetime smoker while Randall did not smoke. Yet the slovenly guy who ate what he wanted and smoked, lived 6 years longer.

3. Divorce: On the show, both were famously divorced--which is how they came to be living together. Yet both actors were never divorced and their initial marriages lasted over 50 years. (Klugman did legally seperate from his wife of 21 years, but they never divorced).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fisking Marcotte is Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

But here goes anyway:

National Review Writer Doubts the Power of the Bushmaster AR-15
By Amanda Marcotte

If you, like many red-blooded Americans, plan on joining the gun shopping spree that mass shootings usually inspire,

It is not the mass shooting that inspires gun shopping, it is the fear that the predictible hysteria will lead to a ban. So, it is prudent to buy while you still can.

The fact that he successfully killed 27 women and children with only one target escaping with an injury certainly suggests that the gun does what it was designed to do: kill a whole bunch of people in a short period of time.

There is a lot of history behind the development of the .223 Remington. To sum it up, the earlier cartridge types were more powerful than they needed to be. The 30.06 could be fatal at ranges of up to 800 yards while most soldiers lack the skill to make a hit beyond 200 yards. Further, it is better in a battlefield situation to wound (badly) than to kill outright. The logic is that a wounded soldier needs assistance while a dead one can wait for attention, so you remove more of the enemy by wounding them than by killing. Further advantages are that smaller lighter ammunition allows for more rounds to be carried and the lighter recoil helps with accuracy. Many states do not allow big game hunting with .223 Win because it is not deemed powerful enough. We err on the side of overkill for hunting because it is inhumane to inflict a wound which will kill, but only slowly.

But before you rush to give Bushmaster your hard-earned dollars, let me present a second opinion on the gun's manhood-bolstering capabilities from Robert VerBruggen, courtesy of the (sic) National Review Online, who argues that Lanza's weapon is too weak to bother banning:

VerBruggen's logic is not exactly difficult to follow: Gun control people claim that they are not after hunting weapons, but want to ban "powerful" "assault weapons". Hunting rifles are much more powerful than so-called assault weapons. So if you want to make a limit on how powerful civilian weapons can be, you will end up banning all large game rifles.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Barefoot Half Marathon

This is no kind of record for me, I've done this distance barefoot several times this year, although all have been since early fall.

I had originally wanted to run with shoes because I have a goal of doing at least one long run (15 miles or more) before the end of the year and my feet can't take much beyond 13. The problem lately is that if I run with shoes I am too tired to go further than that, so 13 seems to be the limit for now.

It was a nice day, sunny and low 40's and there are only so many days left before we are hit with the kind of cold and snow that will keep even my shoes on. So I will make barefoot runs while I can.

It was just cold enough, or really just warm enough depending on how you look at it, so that in sunny parts it was perfectly comfortable. In shady areas I felt a chill and my feet were cold. One might think that my feet would be numb all the time when running in 40 degree weather. Not so! Even at about 30 degrees, the feet are numb for a little while but then thaw out in a mile or two. A lot depends on if the ground is wet. In any case, numb feet are fine comfort-wise but I worry about damaging myself and not noticing until too late. A small sharp stone or peice of glass can stick to the bottom of your foot and slowly drill its way in with every footfall.

I started the run at about noon and yet the sun was low in the sky. The trees along the bikepath were casting shadows at right angles to the path and even though the pavement is asphault, the lit areas were almost white in the sun so there was a large contrast between the shadows and lit areas. As I ran down the path, I imagined that I was traveling along an endless barcode. The tree trunks cast shadows of various thicknesses and the spacing was random yet homogeneous in that there were few areas of total blackness or of light. I amused myself thinking about what messages could be encoded by the alternating bands of light and dark. We assume that the bands on packages mean something, even if we don't know what it is. We similarly asssume that the natural barcode means nothing, though at the very least it tells us a lot about the population density and age distribution of the trees in the wood.

Things took a poor turn soon into the run. I had been looking forward to getting out of the woods and onto roads since there would be more sunshine out in the open. Indeed there was, but also broken glass. My vision has gotten worse over the years, in the sense that I can't focus up-close anymore, but I can see small pebbles and glass peices well enough to avoid stepping on them. A sharp pain at around mile 3 told me that my senses failed. I stopped for a bit and found a shard of amber glass, not much bigger than a largish grain of sand embedded in the ball of one foot. I easily dug it out with a fingernail and was dismayed to see a bright drop of blood welling out of the wound. Great! Only ten miles to go! By about the half-way mark, sharp pains in both feet indicated further wounds, though there was no more glass to pick-out.

Not every step rewarded me with sharp pain, it was more like a couple of steps per minute of running. Maybe it was from when a small grain of grit got into the wound. In all, not a bad run. I made just under 8:00 per mile.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


They are not expensive and I don't think we use them on anything other than burgers, but we always seem to be running out of sliced pickles.

Monday, I did a Costco run and saw that I could get a gallon jar of whole dill pickles for $3.49! After a bit of indecision, it will take up a lot of space, I decided to get it.

It took only two pickles to fill the Mt. Olive jar most of the way--a 3rd would not have fit. The economics of it would seem to be sound: The big Vlasic jar would only need to have about 4 pickes to hit break-even. Based on the label, there should be around 18 in the jar: The label says that a serving is 1/4 of a pickle and there are 70 servings. Another way of calculation is that both jars say that a serving is one ounce and there are 10 servings in the pre-sliced jar.

The main benefit is that I can re-fill the sliced jar whenever it is low and so am saved from the Hobbson's choice of either keeping a spare jar of sliced pickes or having a burger with no pickles. Also, if I want pickle spears I can make them--I would never buy a jar of pickle spears since we almost never use them.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Reason There Should Not Be an Agreement

Yuval Levin summs it up perfectly here.

The Democrats want to raise revenue and the Republicans want to reform entitlements. Those goals would seem to be easily reconciled — just do some of each, or even lots of each. But it only seems that way because we don’t often think about why the parties want these things. Simply (and surely somewhat too simply) put, the Democrats want more money so that the entitlement system doesn’t have to be reformed, while the Republicans want to reform the entitlement system so that the government doesn’t have to take more of the country’s money or take up even more of the economy. That means that doing some of each, let alone lots of each, doesn’t give both parties what they want, it gives both parties what they are desperately trying to avoid.

It is not really in either side's interest to compromise: The left would like to only raise taxes on "the rich" but don't really care if everyone gets hit--especially if they can blame the Republicans for it. The Republicans would rather have the taxes hit everybody since otherwise, there would be no leverage to get the economically harmfull rates on the high incomes brought back down.

The place where the Republicans have real leverage is on the debt limit. If they don't raise it then 31% of all federal spending will have to be cut. This is roughly the amount of spending on the discretionary side of the budget. If no agreement is made, then entitlements will have to be cut.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Getting "Played"

There is a lot of hate aimed at our presidents these days.

To some extent it has always been this way but it seems as if this phenomina has gotten much worse with the last three presidents.

Here is my theory as to why this is the case: It is different for the different sides:

The left hated George W. Bush because he was endlessly vilified in the press. It is only natural when everybody says how awful you are that you get to be disliked. For the right, the hatred of Clinton and Obama is for another reason and it is also less intense IMO. The hate comes from a feeling of injustice: Clinton (to what now seems like a relatively small degree) and Obama (massively) have gotten a total pass when they have failed.

A key to not being manipulated by all of this is to remember: It is not Bush's fault that the press demonized him, and it is not Clinton nor Obama's fault that the press lionizes them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I believe I have pointed out how I like to collect instances where things seem alike when viewed from one standpoint and seem opposite when viewed from another. The below quote from Instapundit is similar in a way: It can be taken in either of two ways, but they both point to the same conclusion.

HARDLY A SURPRISE: AK-47 Sales Soar, Crime Rates Fall? I mean, would you mug a guy with an AK-47?

"Would you mug a guy with an AK-47?" This could mean, if you were a mugger and a potential victim was carrying an AK-47, you probably would not mug him. It could also mean, if you were the kind of mugger who wanted to carry a weapon, it would almost certainly not be a rifle of any kind. After all, concealability would seem to be a logical concern.

Either of the meanings reinforce the correct conclusion that AK-47 type weapons are not suitable tools for the criminal class, at least not when it comes to mugging.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Let me see if I have this right?

The idea of Veteren's Day is to honor people who served in our military. This is all well and good--even as it may appear to be self-serving, I am all for it.

But why is it a Federal holiday? The largest group of people who get the day off are public employees. They range from generally to overwhelmingly left of center. It is also well-known that the ranks of the military have long been right of center.

So we honor veterens by giving a day off to mostly people who never served.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

End Of The Line?

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville

Why is it that single women and minorities are the most loyal Democratic voters? They know which party will offer them the most goodies (at someone else's expense).

I hope that we as a nation are not doomed, demographics do point in that direction though: The underclass is growing and the productive classes are not.

Added: I was discussing these issues with my 15 year old daughter and she pointed out (correctly) that it is rational for people to vote in their own interest. We fairly explain the votes of the dependent class, but why to elites vote to the left so often? They make a lot of money and would be hit hard by higher taxes, it is certainly not in their interest to vote the way they do. Maybe it is a mirror image of What's the Matter with Kansas?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Mary Matalin of The Corner Has It Exactly Right

A political narcissistic sociopath leveraged fear and ignorance with a campaign marked by mendacity and malice rather than a mandate for resurgence and reform. Instead of using his high office to articulate a vision for our future, Obama used it as a vehicle for character assassination, replete with unrelenting and destructive distortion, derision, and division.

Read it all here.

Added: That he got away with it says something about what we have become as a people. That something is more depressing than the prospect of putting up with this clown for another four years.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Two Elections: Each A Defense "Of The One Big Thing"

It is too early yet to know if Obama has managed to be re-elected, but I see a real parallel between George W. Bush's re-election in 2004 and this race:

Both men were highly polarizing. To my view, the left (including the press) hated Bush and never saw his win as legitimate and therefore felt free to attack him with little regard for the good of the country. In Obama's case, he is polarizing because he has nothing but contempt for about half the country and we have noticed. Not to get too sidetracked, but each re-election only really mattered due to what it would prevent:

For Bush, it would prevent the left from pulling a Vietnam in Iraq and abandoning the cause after most of the effort was behind us.

For Obama, it is to prevent the overturn of "Obamacare".

There are a lot of differences too. The war was initially very popular and the Republicans made it a central point of the campain. Obamacare has never been all that popular. I don't think it has ever gone up to 50% and has fallen from its peak--though it is more popular now than the gulf war ended up being. Though, I suspect that if the president is in for another term, by the end of it Obamacare will be about as popular as the war ended up being. In any case, defence of the healthcare law has barely been mentioned and has not been a central theme.

Really, there hasn't been a central theme at all, just small snipey gripey things like threats of abortion being totally banned, big bird and tax breaks for millionares. Basically just a bunch of substanceless BS.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Do We Value Sincerity?

I had this little Twitter dialog over the weekend and it needs some expansion, but I don't want to harass Dawkins or be confined to 140 letter thoughts.

Richard Dawkins:
Romney believes a religion which is not only barking mad and utterly unscientific. It is also deeply racist. Mr Deity:

David Pecchia:
@RichardDawkins Obama also claims to be a Christian. Are we assuming that this is somehow different, or that he is being insincere?

Richard Dawkins:
@dpecchia I hope he's being insincere. I'd hate to think he really believes it. But even Christianity is not in the same league as Mormonism

He is saying a couple of things here:

1. Mormonism is especially weird.

2. Obama is probably faking his religious belief, which is apparently a good thing.

I'll take the first point first: It is a little odd in the first place for atheists to debate which belief system is the most bizarre. Isn't belief in something for which, in the mind of a good atheist, there is no evidence at all, really the main gripe? Another way of looking at members of the LDS is more operational: Do they engage in behavior that is unconventional? I have spent time around Mormons and to my experience; they are anodyne to a fault. A final note: Romney grew up in a Mormon household. It is very common for people to stick-with the faith they grew-up with. Obama took-up his Christianity as an adult. I usually regard people who find religion as an adult as being more sincere in their belief--unless they do it under duress, like if they have to convert in order to marry. It seems that Obama's conversion may have been in the service of his "community organizing" and so may not be a typical conversion story.

As an aside: I sometimes make fun of my wife's Hindu background, to which she retorts, "But you don't even believe in God"! My (former Catholic) answer, "Yes, but the God I don't believe in is the one true God"!

As for the second point: I will start off by agreeing with Dawkins. I think Obama is really agnostic or atheist and is only pretending to be Christian. Where we depart is in how it makes us feel about Obama and Romney.

Neither of us know what is in the heart of either of these men: Romny could be secretly an atheist and Obama really a devout Christian. Somehow, people as different as Dawkins and me both think (on this point at least) that Romney is being honest and Obama is being deceitful. Now, as a point of first principles, one should favor an honest man over a liar. Maybe even Dawkins would agree, but I think that to Dawkins, it is better to be a liar than a believer in God. But doesn't the lie go to the heart of what a politician in a representative democracy stands for? Why would an atheist even want to lead a nation which is highly religious and which would never elect an admitted atheist? If you so utterly disrespect the belief of a people, why would you want to waste your time serving as their leader?

Added: Another part of the conversation via WSJ Best of the Web Today...

Richard Dawkins
@TheRiler @jamestaranto I don't like it, but a president who lies out of political necessity is a lesser evil than a stupid president

Wow! So Dawkins is calling anyone who believes in God, stupid? Amazing! Thoughtful people on both sides understand that this is not something which can be proven, right?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Identical or Opposite

Probably dating back to when I was majoring in philosophy, I've been facinated by things which can seem similar when looked at in one way and opposite when approached from another angle:

A good recent one is insurance coverage for ED medicines and for contraception.

From one viewpoint, they are the same because they facilitate sexual activity. On the other hand, ED drugs treat a lack of proper function, while contraception prevents normal function.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Bare Trees -- pre Nicks FleetwoodMac

Added: The songs just before and after Bare Trees are also really great.

Sunny Side of Heaven By Danny Kirwan is without lyrics and has an ethereal sound.

Sentimental Lady By Bob Welch is a catchy tune that got a lot of airplay when I was a kid--though it was probably not this, early Fleetwood Mac version.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Amazon Heat Map

There are a lot of ways (many of them self-serving) of looking at this graphic. I think the most direct is with the following assumptions:

1. It is mostly conservatives buying conservative books and mostly liberals buying liberal books. People look for ammunition and reinforcment of what they already believe.

2. Even though about twice as many people describe themselves as conservative than as liberal, the fact of the matter is that Democrats and Republicans each get very close to 50% of the total vote.

3. Why then are conservative books selling so much better than liberal ones? I think it is in the very different distribution of each of the side's 50%: The conservative side ranges from working class people through wealthy people, with most in the middle. The liberal side has lots in the middle too, but they dominate the opposite ends of the spectrum. The underclasses are almost monolithically liberal and the same is true of elites, such as college professors.

4. The underclasses barely buy books at all, let alone ones that are hard to read and lack much entertainment value. So it isn't as if the country is swinging right, it is just that a big chunk of the left are not in the book-buying demographic.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Touching Photo (especially if you give it a careful look)

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The obvious bit is the guy who is pointing at Romney with a "I can't believe I'm posing with the Republican candidate for president" look. It is a refreshing glimpse at humanity, which is full of honest emotions.

The other part is the two women on the other side of Romney. They are holding hands! They are probably nervous and are close enough to seek this kind of comfort. Maybe they are sisters, or more likely--they have bonded through their shared experiences at work.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Polar Opposites

There has recently been some hysteria alarm over the state of the polar ice cap.

Here is a typical story on the phenomena from the NYT:

And here is a graph of satellite data:

The couple of things I think about when I see this data are:

There seems to be a clear trend of decline in Arctic Sea Ice, though the normal seasonal variation is an order of magnitude greater. The trend looks like maybe between 5 and 10 percent decline over a 35 year time-span, while the normal seasonal variation is around 50%!

The other thing is that while it seems to recover every winter season, there may be some value in the Arctic Ocean being navigable for some portion of the year.

Meanwhile, the obvious thing--at least to me, to look at is what is going on in the Antarctic region. If global warming is causing a decline in the Arctic Sea ice, it stands to reason that the Antarctic Sea ice should be similarly declining.

Except it isn't: It is in record high territory.

While the current anomaly is small as a percentage of the whole, note that it is past two standard deviations from the mean.

Besides being on the opposite sides of the Earth, the poles are reversed in their local environment too: In the Arctic, there is an ocean surrounded by land masses. In the Antarctic, there is a continent surrounded by oceans. If you read the articles, you will see that both the melting in the Arctic and the growing ice in the Antarctic can be accounted for by global warming. Somehow though, I suspect that if the Arctic Sea ice was growing and the Antarctic Sea ice was shrinking, there would still be a global warming rationale to account for it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

No Man Is An Island, Yada Yada...

Below, we see President Obama sort of channeling Elizabeth Warren. It is clearly resonating with his audience and with the left, but why does it irritate the hell out of conservatives?

First the video, then some teasing-out of what we hate about it.

From the start it seems as if he is pointing out the blindingly obvious: Without roads, police, laws, common currency etc. it would be impossible to found and operate a modern business enterprise. True enough but why not go further? Without civilization: Things like language, cuisine, tradition and institutions such as family and marriage; then you wouldn't be able to survive in nature let alone form a government, or enjoy any of the goods that come from it. We could go even further. What about nature and the universe? We did not create these things.

We cannot repay civilization for creating things like language--civilization is largely the product of people who are long gone. As for the natural world, some of us do what we can in the form of religious worship--we cannot pay back what we have, but we can at least show gratitude. Government is very different though.

Roads, bridges, public schools, police and military protection are not gifts from government to the people. No. this is backwards. We the people institute governments for the purpose of providing these goods. We institute and fund these operations for these exact purposes!

An analogy:

I sometimes build furniture for our personal use at home. In order to do this, I have purchased tools, lumber and miscellaneous supplies such as sandpaper, glue and varnish. When I am done, I feel no inclination to send some extra money to Black & Decker because the saw worked, or to send money to Borden because the adhesive managed to stick two boards together. I bought these things and they worked, end of story. But what if I was especially successful and made masterpieces which sold for vast sums of money? Should I then go back and pay extra money to the lumberyard? No. Anybody can buy tools, wood and supplies--they will sell to amateurs like me the same as they sell to masters who are capable of producing great art.

Similarly, the roads, police, public education are available to all of us. Some of us make better use of these things and are successful as a result. So what is the President's point in all of this? He seems to be minimizing the effects of individual effort and focusing on those things which are done by the larger society. The problem is that we are each an individual: Infrastructure is here, all that we can do as individuals is to make use of it or not and that is to be encouraged--not disparaged.

Added: Lots of great visual humor is appearing: More Here

Stay unemployed, my friends.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Misc. Bleatish thoughts since I haven't posted in a while...

--Last weekend I took Jemma to a swim meet with Surenna and afterwards we all wanted to go to McDonalds for lunch. Things seemed to start auspiciously but went downhill from there. We walked in and there were no customers at the counter, so we began to order. Just then, an old lady came rushing up to the counter, like she needed catsup or forgot her change. She then proceeded to make an order! The old bat had just cut in front of us!

Later the kids were wondering why old people are so rude. I told them that the lady was a jerk, but probably was always so. I speculated that when she was young, she excused herself any blame for cutting because she was a kid and nobody expects fine manners from them. Later as a working adult or parent, she rationalized that she was too busy to wait. Now she figures that as an old person, people should make allowances for her.

Once we got up to order, the cashier indicated that they had no burgers! Jemma complained about us leaving, since she was having nuggets anyway. But really, should Surenna and I have just stared at Jemma while she ate? We went to another nearby McDonalds and we all had what we wanted. It was easy to get around since we happened to be within a couple of miles of where I work and so I know all the roads around there.

--I watched the gentlemen's Wimbledon today and the ladies’ yesterday. There was a lot of great tennis, though the men's match was more interesting. In the women's, the play was dominated by Serena Williams' serve. Winning with a powerful serve is perfectly legitimate but not at all interesting to watch. The set which Radwanska won was by far the best one. On the men's side, Andy Murray was not favored to win since Roger Federer is just simply the better player right now. Nonetheless, he took the first set and really gave Federer a tough match.

As an aside, the girls had definite and diverse opinions about the men. Jemma thought Federer was the most handsome and the other two really liked Andy Murray. They are both good-looking men; I think Murray has a kind of roughish charm, while Federer looks more debonair. Jemma didn't like Andy Murray's prominent Adams apple and loved Roger's flowing hair.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sea Food Dinners

My wife is not a fan of mussels, so I threw in some hot Italian sausage. I had some too: Pork goes really well with mollusks.

Summer puts me in the mood for seafood. I love the flavor, it seems to go with the warmer weather. The attractiveness of the dishes is just a bonus.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Not Just Raise The Age to 65?

It seems the boy hasn't changed his mind, or gained any maturity since the age of 4.

BROOKLINE - When Eric Dumas was 4, he asked his father if a man standing nearby was going to die. Taken aback, his father, Rob, inquired why his son would ask such a question. His son’s response: “That person is smoking.’’

His dad didn't answer this way, but I would have. "Well son, everybody, including that man, will die someday." And, "People will often times do things that you think are against their own interests. But this is a free country and they have a right to be self-destructive."

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Some WWII Aircraft From the A & S

The Japanese "Zero"

Spitfire, with elegant elliptical wings.

P-52 Mustang. Not as elegant as the Spitfire, but with laminar flow wings 100 mph faster and much greater range. Able to escort bombers all the way to Berlin.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Early Preview of Schedules to Come

Each of the three girls goes to a different school: The youngest to elementary school, where they only deal with pure things like Iron and Oxygen and no messy compounds like water or trans-fatty acids. The middle goes to, wait for it, middle school. And the oldest is in high school. Next school year, the youngest will be going to middle school, so there will be just two batches of kids to send off rather than three.

The preview is that my wife took the youngest to a wedding in LA and so I had only the two eldest to get on their way. Once the middle schooler went out the door I had two hours to kill before having to start work. Wow! It opened up such a nice big chunk of day.

I remember when I had to drop all three off at daycare,-three different places, on the way to work. Work which I had to be at an hour earlier than my current job. Things have essentially improved steadily since then. Schedule wise.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Boys And Amateur Sociology

Boys. Not mine, we only have girls:

Lately I've been reminded of how awful boys of a certain age can be. That age? Not sure, probably middle school aged, though they could have been in a final bit of grade school or early grade in high school. Let's settle on middle schoolers as a working hypothesis.

I am a normal looking guy, neither especially geeky nor notably handsome. So, to young people I am usually invisible, which is fine for me and I presume, fine for them*. But lately on lunchtime jogs I have had kids yelling obscenities at me from their bus and even throwing things at me from the windows. I suppose some of the explanation is that they feel safe. The bus is too fast for me to catch and they have a certain kind of mob mentality when they are grouped-up like that. I suspect none of these young boys would dare accost me if we were both on foot. So there is a bit of cowardice in play.

But why do it in the first place? This is not something any friend or I ever did at that age. I think class plays a role here. My office is in Billerica, which is mostly working class but I run a lot in Bedford which is mostly professional people. I have never been accosted in the Bedford part of my runs, but frequently in Billerica. It is well known that college educated professionals have much lower divorce rates than those with less education and so it might just come down to an absence of fathers in the households of these nascent hooligans.

*To confirm this, I asked my daughter, who runs on her high school track team, about this. She indicated that whenever a school bus goes by when they are jogging, their running group gets a similar treatment. Our town of Chelmsford is probably intermediate class-wise between the above two towns. It is possibly even more socially unacceptable to insult young women as adult men, but certainly less physically dangerous.

Added: I think it may always have been thus. This musing made me recall an encounter I had almost thirty year's ago. I was shopping at a supermarket in Spokane--I did most of the grocery shopping and a fair amount of the cooking when I home for the Summer from college. I ran into a man I knew from my dad's days in the Washington ANG. This guy had been a pilot or navigator and when he retired from that, he became a middle school teacher. We spoke a long time about family and whatnot, but one thing really stuck with me. He said that, "boys leave the human race for a while' but he added, "they come back".

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More Grilling and Efficient Use of Charcoal

A couple of weeks ago we grilled for 18 people: Yesterday there were a total of 24 for the Memorial Day BBQ.

I got three loads of food out of one charge of Kingsford briquettes: First, a full load of tandoori chicken--mostly lid closed to ensure doneness. When that was finished, a full load of shish kabobs was done--lid open to char the meat without over cooking it. Finally, a load of burgers, hotdogs and Italian sausage.

There were tons of desserts and side dishes too, but I had no role in those other than eating them!

Plenty of drinks were had as well: The usual beer and wine, but also an easy Summer cocktail we came up with last year:

1 glass with a few ice cubes in it.
1 shot of gin or white rum poured over the ice.
1/2 can of Pelligrino Orange or Lemon soda.

(To conserve soda, just make two of these at a time--one for you and one for a guest)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Crazy Saturday, sedate Sunday

The day started early; I had a race in Bedford NH which started at 9:00 AM. As is common on these grand prix events, lots of people from the running club meet at a shopping center and carpool up. I ended taking two other guys up with me.

The run was fine, I took a minute longer than the last time I ran it a couple of years ago but still finished with roughly the same placement. Results are here. What I found interesting is that, of the members of our running club (42 finishers) the group I drove up with finished together. On one hand, it is almost inevitable in that we are roughly the same speed, but from a statistical standpoint, highly unlikely to happen by chance.

On a normal Saturday, if I did a race, then the rest of the day would be mostly lazing about. This day, we had a bunch of visiting relatives coming over--there would be 18 people counting our own family. I had to neaten up the out of doors part of the place and that involved a hour or so of lawn mowing. And my gas-can was empty! Luckily I remembered that the snow blower tank was still full, so I drained that tank and used the gas in the lawn mower.

The rest of the house was set-up and then grilling commenced in the early afternoon. It all went well, but I felt like I was running on fumes from well before noon.

Update: Oh yes. On Sunday I didn't do jack squat. Heaven!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Museum of Natural History

An Emerald, almost as nice as mine.

1,000 Carat flawless aquamarine.

Looks like the brain of an evil genius--possibly a robot.

Is this Superman's house? AKA Fortress of Solitude

Brown Bear.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Conservatory (greenhouse)

Right in the same neighborhood as the Capitol, Supreme Court and Library of Congress is the National Conservatory. A nice break from all of those stuffy buildings with lines and security screenings.


Our little family taken on an upper level catwalk by a friendly woman.

Cacao tree

Another orchid

Monday, April 30, 2012

Groton Road Race

Place.....Name..............Time...Pace...Age...Place/Men....Place/age group
66.......David Pecchia.....44:14...7:08...49....62/253..........20/68

I don't think I have ever run this race as fast and yet I don't think I did as well as I have in the past. Here is last year's stats: I came in higher is a field that was slightly larger, came in 44th out of 284 men versus this year when I came in 62 out of only 253 and so forth. I think the key is that the median time this year was a whole minute faster than last year's race, so even though I took 30 seconds off of last year's time, it wasn't enough to maintain my rank.

Last year's stats:
Place----Name----------Time---Pace--Age--Place/Men----Place/age group
52-----David Pecchia---44:47--7:13--48---44/284-----------22/104

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Couple More I liked...

Art somewhere...

We went to a bunch of museums on Tuesday; the Freer, Sackler and the National Gallery, so I don't remember which this one was--I think the National Gallery.

Every once in a while I took a detail shot of a painting and it is well worth it, I really wish I had done more of that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Out Of This World

In the center of the top circle is a little black dot. This is an actual rock from Earth's Moon. The window commemorates the mission to land on the Moon.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Streams of Light

You can almost picture the trillions of photons rushing in through this window.

I like the subtlety of president Washington's location here.

The real question is why this holy light does not scorch her skin.

National Cathedral, Washington DC

National Cathedral Washington DC: It looks really big on the outside.

Inside, it is rather cozy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Daughter's High School String Orchestra

My daughter tells me the piece is called;
Capriccio espagnol, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Actually, she only gave me the name and I googled the rest of the information.

It is really kind of funny: A Russian makes classical versions of Spanish folk music which is later adapted by American High School string orchestras. Small world & etc.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Chain Reaction With a Little Side-Note

As part of the HHS mandate requiring all insurance, even from Catholic organizations, to offer contraceptives with zero co-pay: The Democrats had Sandra Fluke, a 30 year old Georgetown law student testify on the subject. I won't get into the weeds on the value of her testimony from a legal standpoint since she was not called as an expert witness, but rather as a representative victim. The real controversy came about when talk radio personality, Rush Limbaugh called the student a prostitute and a slut. He has since apologized for his words.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

--I apologize for taking so long to get to my point, which still requires some set-up.--ed

President Obama ended up phoning the student and among other things said that he thinks her parents should be proud of her.

Ann Althouse, found someone who called the student a "coed" and this was determined to be insulting too! As for me, I think the president and the users of the term "coed" are pulling from the same well, we commonly think of a student as young and so coed is a diminutive term, just as is the use of proud parents.

When I had read the blog posting from Alhouse, I did a little web searching to see if it is at all common to see the use of "coed" as insulting. I didn't come up with any controversy surrounding its use other than the inclusion of a hyphen or not.

Naturally, I commented that I prefer co-ed with its hyphen intact.

Added Notes:

--A common argument against contraceptives being part of insurance is that they are not an unexpected cost. This is probably true most of the time, but I could easily think of a case where it would be true. Say a coed has no plan to become romantically involved while in school and so does not go on the pill. Then, sometime in the course of her studies, she falls in love, gets married and wants to go on the pill. In this sense it would be an unplanned expense.

--Why the insistence on a zero co-pay? Birth control is rarely life-or-death, for the woman that is. Meanwhile, other drugs that treat heart disease, hypertension and diabetes are essential for preserving health and life and yet co-pays are allowed for these. I would class birth control in about the same way I would class my running shoes: Excercise is healthy and athletic shoes are a necessary* cost associated with this healthful activity. My pet hypothesis is that the Obama administration wanted a fight. They could have put all of this off till after the election if they wanted to.

*Frequent readers know that I am increasingly running barefoot, though I don't think it weakens my argument, though possibly my credibility.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Low Carb Dinner

Or it would have been, had I not accompanied the salad with five pieces of rustic bread with brie spread on them.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Odds and Ends

I spent the last week in the Raleigh Durham area of North Carolina and even though this Winter has been mild, it was still nice to have an even better climate for a bit.

I went running a couple of times after work while I was there. I had no energy and was pathetically slow. It was warmer than here, but I don't think it was so warm that it slowed me down. I think that I was slower due to the unfamiliar routes. It is easy to really push hard when you know your way and don't have to worry about the course ending up being a couple miles further than you expect or a big hill coming along before the finish.

It was encouraging yesterday when I did a reasonably fast barefoot run the Saturday after my return home. I don't do barefoot running for accolades, it is more of an experiment to see if it will help with nagging injuries and make me a faster, healthier runner. Along the path of my course, a man came riding on a bike in the opposite direction with a portable radio blaring music. I could see that he noticed my unshod condition, he looked at me and said, "You win". He might have been sardonic, but I still enjoyed it.

We went to a number of interesting places to eat and drink in NC. One place was called, Flying Saucer. One (long) wall was lined with beer taps. The walls and ceiling were covered in plates. Many were china but most were to commemorate beer drinking. You can sign-up and get a plate of your own once you have had 200 different beers. Probably for liability reasons, you can only earn two per day, though they will serve you far more than two beers in a sitting; I had three when we were there. Pints. Another detail I could not resist noticing was that the waitresses had a kind of meta-uniform. I don't recall if any single girl wore all of these motifs, but the common theme was: Sheer knee-high black socks, plaid pleated short skirts, black t-shirt. Some of them had tights or a hoodie, but there was enough commonality that you could tell who was a waitress pretty easily.

Speaking of t-shirts. When we were about to leave the hotel for dinner, my colleague pointed out that the place we were going was business casual and I was wearing a t-shirt. No problem: I quickly changed into a normal shirt. On the way to the car, he was very apologetic about making me change, but it was really no problem and certainly better than finding out once we were already at the restaurant, trying to get in with my "business casual-tee".

The place we went to was Sullivan's Steakhouse and was only a couple of blocks from the beer joint so we walked over. Sullivan's had a kind of typical dark swankiness that is comforting when you plan to drop some serious change on a big tender steak. The darkness extended even into the restroom as well. The urinals were either black or a very dark color like navy blue. The lights must have been either incandescent spotlights or possibly LED lights. It had a kind of bluish intensity. The overall effect was that my stream reminded me of what diamonds look like when displayed on black velvet.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Odds And Ends

A car in our work parking lot has a constellation of bumper stickers. And yes, I know; when there are a lot of them it's a sure sign that the owner is a radical of one stripe or another. Still, I couldn't resist looking...

One struck me in a number of ways--risky, wrong-headed, Yes. But mostly it was the kind of thing likely to backfire. I did a Google search and could not find the exact same image but the gist, if I may put it that way, is that if you drive a Hummer you likely have some physical shortcoming.

1. The first thing I thought of was the rejoinder: You, the owner of the sticker, know this because you have seen such vast acreage of these parts? You still invite intimate knowledge of men who own Hummers? Or are the figures so vast that a statistically relevant number of times, after you had "inspected" this part, you came to find out later that they owned a Hummer? There just isn't a way in which the owner of the sticker comes out looking good.

2. Or maybe it is to mean that they suppose it's true on logical grounds even if they have no empiric knowledge. So, manly men stereotypically engage in macho pursuits and so all owners of this kind of vehicle must be trying to seem manly. But if that is a stereotype, then most of the time it must be true (or at least largely thought true) since that is how such notions form. So, technically it is more likely that a guy drives a Hummer because he is macho and is attracted to macho things.

3. I'm just teasing the person in the above two items. I think the real aim is to demean or bully people who make different (wrong) car buying decisions. But the ugliness doesn't end there. What if a guy is not well-endowed? This is hardly something that he could control--you are born with the genes you get. To be proud or ashamed of that which you have no control over is irrational. To tease people over that which they cannot control is someplace between thoughtless and odious.

4. What is so bad about a Hummer? I have had many a left-wing acquaintance blurt-out how they hate them. But I have never heard anyone say the same thing about exotic sports cars. They both get about the same mileage--though the exotics are worse in the sense that they all need premium fuel. The Hummer may never go off road, but it can go on-road when it has snowed and they carry more than two people. They are ostensibly far more practical than sports cars and yet where's the hate for Porsche?

I think that while these "progressives" feel like they are enlightened and the targets of their scorn are Troglodytes: Their moral "superiority" is more akin to the Mrs. Grundys and mutaween of the world than anything approaching enlightenment.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Basis Of Their Opposition is Morality

One gets an interesting response when the subject of the Keystone XL pipeline is brought-up in the presence of a "progressive". Sometimes they give real reasons to be against it but mostly they try to change the subject. I think that on some level they know that there isn't a rational reason for opposition. Based on the reasons they give, one hopes that they really don't think these things are convincing:

"Oil from tar sands is much worse for the environment than conventional oil" Okay, granted. But do you think the lack of a pipeline will cause the Canadians to just leave the stuff in the ground? This is usually where they try to change the subject. Oil sells for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100/bbl and it costs less than $40/bbl to produce from tar sands--anyone can do the math. If anything, it will get cheaper to produce going forward. Technology constantly improves and natural gas, which is a major input, has just gotten a lot cheaper.

The alternative to the pipeline is that we will buy more oil from overseas, which will come by tanker. The Canadians meanwhile will pipe it to the Pacific, then put it on a tanker to China. All in all, energy will be wasted.

Yet, I do understand the opposition: Imagine a scenario where North of us was not friendly, democratic and (just as, if not more) environmentally conscious Canada, but rather a country like North Korea. They care nothing for the environment, their people are essentially slaves and all the money will be used to build weapons to threaten us. If that were the case, I would be against the pipeline too.

The difference here is what it takes to elicit moral outrage. What is odd is that the left frequently accuses the right of trying to impose their morality on all of us. They don't seem to notice that much of what they are for boils down to imposing their morality on us. And the Canadians.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Compliance Is Voluntary.

It doesn't happen all the time, but every so often while driving down the highway, I will see a car pulled-over by a highway patrolman. Even more rarely, the patrolman has pulled over a motorcycle. Whenever that happens, I think to myself that if I was the cop I would be lenient to the rider of the motorcycle.

It is not like the motorcycle had to stop, at least not in the sense that he would have had to stop if he was driving a car. The fact of the matter is that almost any bike could out-run and evade a patrol car in a way that even an exotic sports car could not do.

So cut the guy some slack. That's all I'm saying here.

Similarly, I feel much the same--only more so--about paying the capital gains tax. Mitt Romney has caught a lot of flak for his average tax rate of about 15%. The rate for him seems low only because almost all of it is not in the form of regular income but rather from long term capital gains, which are taxed at 15%. The thing about it though, is that you don't have to pay any capitol gains tax as long as you keep the assets. Romney sells-off some of his assets each year to fund charities and cover his living expenses and he pays 15% on whatever he takes out.

The important thing to remember is that he hasn't worked (not for the primary purpose of earning money) since 1999. He has been living off of his wealth for more than 20 years! This has given him the freedom to do things like be governor of Massachusetts, run for president a couple of times, volunteer with his church and run the Winter Olympics when they were held in Utah.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Zeke, Movies & Stuff

We saw a couple of movies on-demand in the last few days and they couldn't have been more different from each other. The first was Sucker Punch and was what one might expect from Zack Snyder; very stylized, pretty to look at, images fraught with meaning etc. The other was Arthur, not the original with Dudley Moore but the new one with Russell Brand. This version was like the original in that it was light entertainment and had a main character that you should hate, but is played with such winning whimsey, that you can't help but root for him.

In each of the films, serious commentary could be made, but I am just here to note the

In Sucker Punch, there was a scenario where things needed for an escape were obtained through a series of 'missions' which occurred in a kind of dream-within-a-dream state. Which involved dancing--which we don't get to see. The 'mission' for getting a knife went wrong and yet later, when the knife was needed, the heroine had it stashed away with the other things they had obtained. A second gripe which I feel rather childish in pointing out is that the young women who were working to escape the asylum were all beautiful and wore costumes that were rather slutty, yet they somehow were not as sexy as the preceding two facts would lead one to expect.

In Arthur, there were a couple of food-related things that were funny in the movie, yet still had me wondering about. The father of the girl Arthur loves made a cup of tea for Arthur's fancy older woman servant (played winningly by Helen Mirren). She took a sip of the beverage and confessed to the girl that it "tasted like sewage". Now, making tea consists in pouring hot water over a tea-bag. How wrong can anyone get this? In another two parts of the movie SpaghettiOs® are featured. Arthur is introduced to them by the girl and later, when Arthur is taking care of his sick servant, he serves her some. The servant disparaged the meal, but ate it nonetheless. I figured they could have mined this a bit.

Servant: What is this?

Arthur: SpaghettiOs®

Servant: They really ought to call these Spaghetti-naughts

Or something along those lines--hey, I'm an amateur blogger not a big time comedy writer!

Along the food, pop-culture nexus, now that this post has evolved in that direction. My wife came home the other day with something called Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread.

Naturally, I took to calling it "Zeke bread", which reminded my wife that people in The Walking Dead had been referring to something as "Zeke". Being up on zombie lore, I knew immediately that they mean Z=Zeke=Zombie. I just read World War Z, so I am an expert.

Health-conscious zombies are quite fond of whole brain foods.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ships & Feet

More as an illustration that, 'this has been thought of before' than any kind of judgement about the validity of the concept: Supposedly, natives of various exotic climes could not see the large ships anchored off-shore. They had no experience with such things and were therefore blind to them.

There may be something to this, as recently I have found a couple of examples which, though less dramatic, are still telling.

I run, from time-to-time, barefooted. (I won't belabor that subject here, if you are interested there are tons of sites devoted to the subject--you can find them by a simple internet search.) Every once in a while somebody notices the oddness of it and I can tell because of how they react. I don't like it when people notice, because most of the time they are pretty negative about it and sometimes quite rude about how they express their opposition. The nice thing is that hardly anyone notices, or seems to. It is possible that most people do notice and they just don't show any sign of it.

The other kind of situational blindness is more abstract, but in some ways more troubling. I have seen people who are really smart and deal with numbers and statistics for a living, who present obviously flawed data as if they mean something. The latest example is from the recent brouhaha regarding president Obama's "recess" appointments.

Total recess appointments: Obama (29), George W. Bush (171), Clinton (139), George H.W. Bush (77), Reagan (243).

The flaws?

1. They served different lengths of time: George W. Bush, Clinton and Reagan 8 years; H.W. Bush 4 and Obama 3 as of now.

2. The controversy was not over how presidents overused their recess appointment power, it was over making an appointment while the Senate was still in pro-forma session. This is a ripe area for argument and controversy, but the number of recess appointments misses the point.

3. The data are themselves meaningless: Any time there is a recess appointment either of two broad classes of things could be true. The president picked someone who should have been approved and was therefore right to make a recess appointment. OR The president picked a flawed candidate and compounded the error by making a recess appointment. People can (and should) argue the merits of any given appointment, but the numbers of recess appointments are totally meaningless.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Internet Memory Jogger

Yesterday, the whole family went out to a Vietnamese place we had been wanting to try for a while.

While there, one of the kids drew our attention to the music playing over the PA system and noted how hearing ethnic music when at such a place made her think it was more authentic. Another of the girls indicated that the music sounded sad. I thought to myself that the mournful sound was fitting considering South East Asian history over the last several decades. My wife broke my reverie by answering the first girl's comment by saying she judges the authenticity of a place by how many of the customers appear to be of the same ethnic background as the genre of the establishment--they know what it is supposed to taste like and so if they are here, it is good. We then got into a discussion revolving around why Indian places always, whether it is a good place or not, are full of Indians.

Later, I got to listening to the music again and it was really hard to characterize: The most prominent instrument sounded like classical guitar. The music itself sounded like a fusion of East Asian sounds and Calypso music. The song itself sounded like Banana Boat Song which I had always thought of as "Dey Oh!". Here is where I began to rack my brain: Who was the famous American singer who popularized Calypso music? For the life of me, I could not remember! When I got home, quick internet searches revealed the name of Harry Belafonte, which is the guy that I was thinking of.

Along the way, I came across a line from Wikipedia that was perhaps meant to be funny, but I think it was unintentional.

Calypso is part of a spectrum of similar folk and popular Caribbean styles that spans benna and mento, but remains the most prominent genre of Lesser Antillean music.

Added: When we pulled up to the place, our oldest daughter exclaimed, "I thought it was spelled Faux"! In fairness to her, she has been taking French for three years. Also, I may have along the way made a lame joke along the lines of, "It may be called Pho, but it is very authentic"!