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Monday, February 28, 2005


MLWN went out for her morning run on Saturday. About 5 minutes after she left she was back. Before I could even come up with a snide comment about vigorous exercise. She said, "Get shoes on the boys and grab the checkbook. You need to come with me around the corner to buy a bunkbed at a garage sale." So off we trooped. It was an Ikea bunkbed (and yes, I did steal the image from the Ikea website) in good shape, at serious markdown from retail, already assembled, and only about 150 yards from the house (as opposed miles away, in a confusingly arranged store, completely unassembled, and much more pricey). The check written I got it back to the house, upgraded YA from his crib to YW's old bed, installed the bunkbed in YW's room, and went to Costco for mattresses and bedding (matching Spiderman comforters!!!). Now YA is giddy because he has his own Big Bed® and YW can hardly contain himself when in the presence of his bunkbed.

Oscars, Shmoscars 

I don't watch the Oscars.

Cast your mind back to the 1980's. Kenneth Branagh made a version of WIll Shakespeare's Henry V. It was a good movie. It was up for one or more Academy Awards. It was shown on PBS sometime between its theatrical release and the voting deadline for the Oscars. Fine, you're saying, so what? Well, I read an article in the paper by some movie maven about how its broadcast would give it an unfair advantage against the other movies in its category(ies) because it meant that more of the voters would have actually seen it. That statement made me stop watching the Oscars. It's a bunch of people voting for an award based on the buzz around movies that they probably haven't even seen. So who gives a crap about the Oscars?

Friday, February 25, 2005

I Wonder If This Will Work... 

YA goes to preschool. He likes it a lot. He will spontaneously turn to me and say, "I like Teacher Karen." But there are some mornings where he is having a good time at home and doesn't really want to go to school. Today was one of those days. He decided to conduct an experiment where the Null Hypothesis was "I don't have to go to school if I scream and cry and yell that I want to go home the whole way to school, on the walk into school from the car and after I get into school." The Null Hypothesis was disproven. I was pretty confident that he would be fine moments after the departure of the parental unit. A couple hours after he was callously abandoned at school I called to see how he was doing. Teacher Karen said he was fine moments after MLWN left and had been having an entirely satisfying day. I just wonder if he has enough of a grasp of the Scientific Method to repeat the experiment just to make sure that the intial result is the right one.

I hope not.

Friday Kid Blogging 

YW is reading the ever popular Fuzzy Yellow Duckling while YA takes a break from his Finding Nemo board books to play with his Dragons Fire and Ice dragon.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


I know it's fading away even now, but I'm going to toss in my thoughts on Larry Summers' (President of Harvard) gender disparity comments by not commenting on them at all. When I was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota during the 1990s, one of the folk-truths was that anyone going to Harvard as a new faculty member was doing so only to pad their CVs before moving onto a school where they would actually get tenure. That is, unless they had graduated from Harvard. Rumor was that you had no chance of getting tenure at Harvard unless you had earned at least one degree from Harvard (Bachelors or PhD). I don't know if this is true or not, but I talked to more than one professor who dismissed their time on the Harvard faculty in just that way. "Oh, I didn't go to school there so I had no illusions that I would get tenure. I just wanted to have a better CV before I went somewhere else."

So who cares what the leader of some inbred group of professors thinks?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Kodak DX7590 

I keep getting a low level of hits from people searching for information about the Kodak DX7590 digital camera. Since all I've done is mention that I have one, I might as well help out you passersby with my thoughts on the camera. Keep in mind that I'm not a pro and my only previous experience with a digital camera was with a Minolta S414 camera that went belly up on Christmas Eve 2004 after taking, over the course of a few years, a few thousand pictures.

That said I like the camera quite a bit. The 10X optical zoom is great. The picture quality is, to my eye, superior to the Minolta.

One of the consistent raps I read in reviews of the camera was that it doesn't focus well in low-light. The Minolta certainly did no better than the Kodak when the Kodak is in 'Auto' mode. But the camera does have a huge number of operating modes. One of which is designed for dim subjects with a back light. I find that this mode does fairly well at focusing in a normally illuminated room at night.

The camera can't save uncompressed pictures, neither TIFF nor RAW, and it only has two compression settings. The one that generates the largest JPEG file (ie, least compression) still makes a 5 Megapixel picture in a smaller file than the finest setting on the 4 Megapixel Minolta. But, again to my untrained eye, the pictures from the Kodak look better than the ones from the Minolta.

Shorter Hank's review: While I would rather have not had to spend the money to get a new camera, I do like the new one better than the old one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What's Your Name? 

YW has been learning the Sign Language Alphabet. His rendition of the "L" isn't exactly correct, but I think the meaning comes across.

Shut up, bitch! 

Is it just me, or does George's tour of Europe seem like a cheating husband talking to his wife? "Yeah, I fucked her. What are you going to do about it? Now get over it and make me some dinner."

You And What Army? 

Lately on NPR, in the newspaper, on various online news sites, etc, I've been encountering news about how Iran is so very very naughty and how we (that would be the US of A) just can't have that, and that steps might have to be taken. The thing I'm curious about is just how we're going to take steps. It is impossible, not hard, impossible for the Armed Forces of the United States to fight another war right now. We simply lack the necessary number of combat brigades to do anything other than what we are currently doing. Even we reinstated the draft today it would be quite a while before we had any capacity to do more than bomb a few places in Iran. And air strikes seem like an enormously bad idea too. Iran is right next door to Iraq. Do we really want to fight a conventional war against an invading army while simultaneosly trying to put down an insurgency?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Friday Kid Blogging 

Here are a couple of pictures of YW. The first is his 3-month portrait. The other was taken on Monday at the Valentine's Day party at school. And yes I searched a long time to find a Jimmy Neutron shirt. Not one with Jimmy on it, but the same shirt as Jimmy hisownself wears.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

No really? 

U.S. likely to see its influence reduced... Now I know it's an article about how the Iraqis who won the election probably have their own agendas, but as the start of a headline it's pretty great. Lets see, the Secretary of State (aka Diplomat #1) lies constantly about everything and everyone knows it. The Attorney General thinks that torturing people is super. The guy who's probably going to be the Secretary of Homeland Security is also on the Torture Is Neato team. And finally, the president himself commands essentially zero respect from anyone with a more than room temperature IQ. Yeah, I'd say the influence of the U.S. is probably on the downswing.

Update #1: I'm willing to concede that Condi is not congenital liar. It is possible that she is so profoundly stupid that she was incapable of doing her job in the months before 9/11 and is telling the truth when she says that she had no clue that such a thing could occur.

Update #2: Another factor in the waning of American influence must surely be that while we can beat any standing army in the world, we can't subdue one of the weakest nations on the planet.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Did we have the same teacher? 

Short answer: No.

YW is in the first grade. His teacher is a young woman fresh out of school. In her class each week there is a Student Of The Week®. There are various privileges and responsibilites that go along with being SOTW: you get to be line leader for the whole week, you must make a poster about yourself, etc. Due to the vagaries of the alphabet, YW was the first SOTW. His teacher made a poster about herself as an inspiration for an acceptable SOTW poster. One of the details on it was that she grew up in Encinitas, CA. During my nomadic childhood (can I get a hooya! from all the military brats out there?), I lived in Encinitas for two years. I told her this and said I had gone to Ocean Knoll Elementary and Oak Crest Junior High. She also attended those schools. Insert various Small World comments here.

A month or so later it was her birthday and all the parents contributed for a present. On her birthday I asked her age. "25" she said. I did the math. While we did go to the same schools, I attended them a few years before she was born.

So, no, I don't think we had any of the same teachers.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Fish Or Cut Bait 

The other day YA was supposed to take a nap. He takes a nap every day. He's used to it. But this time he was pretty sure he didn't want comply. (Aside: He's 3 years old and still sleeps in his crib.) I put him in his crib, covered him with a couple of blanket, shut the door and went on my way. About 15 minutes later I was back at that end of the house and heard a little voice saying, "Help. Help." Not frantic, not loud, more conversational than anything. I peaked into his room to see if he'd found some hidden toy in the crib and was engaged in play. What I saw was him perched on top of the crib rail, hanging on tight and repeating, "Help. Help." I disengaged him, put him back under the blankets and explained that it is really time to sleep.

I think it might be just about time to get him his own big bed.

I was entertained by his predicament, though. He wanted out, but wouldn't commit to the drop. I don't remember escaping from my own crib, but I'm pretty sure that if you hang on with your hands and let your feet go first you probably won't be hurt too badly. YW got to the stage of being able escape at will when he was about this age so the big bed clock is ticking.

Friday Kid Blogging 

Here's a shot of the boys walking on dirt during the hike where the vista two posts down was snapped.

Permanent Republican Majority 

I'm always reading about how Republicans are creating the conditions for a Permanent Republican Majority. But if you look at what they actually do when they're in power, they act like they know they only have a short time to do whatever they want before the voters kick them out and let the Democrats clean up the mess. They are the political equivalent of high school kids throwing a party when Mom and Dad are out of town for the weekend.

Do you really think that Iraq, the Medicare debacle, the Social Security scam, dismantling environmental laws, etc are the actions of a group of people that really believe they're going to be in power for the couple of generations?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Another Walk On Dirt 

Here is a vista taken on the hike we took on Sunday. It's a an old road that heads south out of town toward Montara, Half Moon Bay, etc. I think it might be the old route of California Highway 1. The current route of Highway 1 runs right along the water (the infamous Devil's Slide), this no longer maintained paved road runs through the hills in the same direction. There are copious lovely views on just the short stroll up the road that we took, and if we perservere in our attempts to walk it, or bike it when everyone is bike-capable, we should be able to get to the brew pub in Princeton-by-the-Sea. Now there's a goal.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Intelligent Design 

What with Kansas considering adding Intelligent Design® to the curriculum and Michael Behe getting ink/electrons in the New York Times, I just have to weigh in myself.

But first a digression, I've read about half of Behe's book about ID. I would have read it all, but the thrust of each chapter was the same: explain some complex thing inside a body or a cell (the eye, the eukaryotic flagellum (In a previous life I used to do molecular genetic research on flagellar assembly in the bilflagellate alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii), etc), then throw his rhetorical hands in the air and exclaim that it was obviously too complex to ever evolve therefore there must be a Designer. Shorter M. Behe: I'm too dim to grasp this so it couldn't evolve. Oh, and this handwaving in the ID crowd that they're not invoking God, it could be space aliens or some other intelligence, is total bullshit. Let's say Space Aliens came down and kickstarted life on Earth. Where did the Space Aliens come from? Other Space Aliens I assume. Either it's Space Aliens all the way down or else we get to God as the first Designer. A God, by the way, that didn't care enough about humanity to create us Himself.

Our friends in the ID crowd love to point to the eye and say it couldn't evolve because it's too complex; "What good is half an eye?" Based on this criterion, our Designer loves squid more than people. The mammalian eye is built upside down. In order for light to register in our eyes it must travel through the cell body before hitting the pigments that are sensitive to light. The axon of the cell that connects it to the optic nerve travels over the surface of the retina to a spot where they all converge and dive through the retina to get to the brain. The spot where they go through the retina has no photoreceptors and is the famous 'blind spot'. So our eyes suffer from attenuation of the light signal due to the light having to travel through the most of the cell before getting registered and they lack photoreceptors on part of each retina; they are built upside down. Squid eyes are built right side up. The light sensitive pigments are on the surface of the retinal cells and the axons come out of the cell on the underside of the retina. So no attenuation and no blind spot. Based on this observation, I think we need to look for Space Alien Designers that resemble squid more than humans since they took more care designing the squid's eye.

Monday, February 07, 2005

There's a fat baby! 

YW was born in Minnesota. My extended family lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. These two facts led to a certain amount of carting YW from place to place to exhibit him to people swimming in his same gene pool. YW was not what you would call a skinny baby. He was no basketball but, he definitely had stored up energy for later use. Whenever we'd go see Granny at the nursing home in Glenwood, the little old ladies in the lobby of the home would sing out, "There's a fat baby!"

This really bummed me out. I've seen my baby pictures; I was a fat baby. YW was just kind of chunky. This psychic trauma percolated around in my brain for a while and then I had a breakthrough. The Little Old Ladies At The Home (LOLATH) in Glenwood were retired farm wives. These ladies had their babies back before antibotics. In their eyes a fat baby was a healthy baby; if you were a skinny baby back when they had their babies, you probably were sick and had a good chance of not surviving. The LOLATH were paying MLWN and I a compliment. They thought we were doing a good job with our baby. After I figured this out, my response, on every visit, to "There's a fat baby!" was a hearty "Thank you very much! And how are you ladies doing today?"

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Friday Kid Blogging (a day late) 

I have this total jones for pictures of my boys while they're sleeping. YA takes after his old man and must have a book near him at all times. I don't usually use one as a pillow, but I can understand the urge.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Things Kids Make You Say 

So we're in Longs Drugs wandering around waiting for the antibiotic prescription to get filled. YA (he's 3) sees a display of Charmin 12-packs on an end cap; the current Charmin wrapper has a cute bear on it (get it? do ya? huh? Does a bear shit in the woods? Yeah, and then it wipes it ass with Charmin! Oh the humor! hee...). YA grabs one and hugs it. I disengage him from the asswipe and put it back. He grabs another one and snuggles with it some more. I get that one away from him and while I'm putting it back he grabs a third one. He's really hugging and snuggling and cooing with this Charmin. "Sasha," I say, "we don't cuddle with toilet paper." I know its not that funny, but I never expected to have to say something like that out loud.

And He Should Know 

John McCain reminds me of Hubert Humphrey. At some point while he was Lyndon Johnson's Vice President, Johnson in response to some question about Hubert said "I've got Hubert's balls in my pocket." That's the only explanation for McCain's vote on Gonzales that I can come up with. McCain has been tortured. For years. When he ran for president against Dubya they savaged him without mercy. So McCain turns around and votes for Alberto for AG. There's party loyalty and there's letting someone carry your balls around in their pocket. McCain is done. I'm just curious what it is that the Bushes know about him that makes him their bitch.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Obligatory SOTU Post 

I didn't watch the State of the Union last night. Instead, because YW had finished all his homework for the week, we watched something far more entertaining: Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. At least that piece of dreck was openly fictional and made at least one of us laugh in genuine mirth.

Let Me Tell You What I Really Think 

Note: This is my third attempt to post this. I will post it. I will.

Warning: Naughty words are used in the following post. Read at your peril.

On Tuesday after the boys had been put away for the night, MLWN and I were channel surfing for something to watch. For no apparent reason we paused on HGTV to watch a little bit of a show wherein regular folk were talking about the favorite things in their houses. For example, one woman really liked her African Violets, another was quite proud of the art collection she had acquired on her trips to exotic foreign locales. The last one we saw was a woman showing off her set of fine china. "It's from Bulgaria and there are over 800 pieces." She went on to explain that she had been married for more than twenty years and had never had any really nice china. "But I prayed to The Lord to help me find a nice set at a good price." MLWN changed the channel right after I said, "Fuck you, you cunt, The Lord doesn't give a shit if you have nice plates." MLWN has a strict rule that we don't get to watch shows that make me yell at the TV, especially ones that get me to use three profanities in one sentence. And most especially ones that make me drop the c-bomb.

As nearly as I can tell, this woman's theology derives more from Santa Claus than Jesus.

Santa = brings you things you wish for.

Jesus = amassing worldly goods is bad.


Yesterday blogger wouldn't let me post. Can I now? Can I?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Go Tigers! 

YW is a Tiger Cub. This is the junior-most variety of Cub Scout. As part of the program there are various activities that get done. One of them is the Go See It. For a Go See It, as you might imagine, you go see something. For example last month's Go See It was a tour of the Pacifica Police Department. This month we're supposed to see a sporting event. We attempted to get everyone together to go the local High School's Boys Basketball game tonight, but only 4 of the 7 could make it, so no Go See It. But YW is so excited about going to the game that we're going to go anyway. We went to a high school football game in the Fall that just happened to be Homecoming. YW is convinced that there will be a parade at the basketball game. I've explained that the parade at the football game was a special event that is not universal, but I can tell he doesn't believe me.

Update: The reported time of tipoff was almost certainly wrong. We were a bit late to the game, but I don't think you can play an entire regulation basketball game in less than half an hour. We were in time to see the last five minutes of the game. Oh, and the Terra Nova Tigers lost to El Camino by a final score of 38 to 52. I promised YW that we would go to another game and watch more than five minutes of play.

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