Monday, October 31, 2005

Christmas Comes Early!

I was introduced to "The Chronicles of Narnia" in third grade. I heard they were turning "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" into a movie, but I took my usual wait-and-see approach. I hate getting my expectations up, only to be disappointed.

So I probably shouldn't have read this review from Newsweek. I don't know if the movie will have the right feel, but the reviewer, Jeff Giles, sure does:

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is a slim, evocative book that always seems smaller than you remember, like a house you lived in as a kid."

Aptly put, and captures how I've felt about them. Giles also avoids the "too religious/non religious enough" debate that seems to be raging around the movie, stating simply, "It's faithful to the novel, and only as Christian as you want it to be." Just like the books, I should add.

But the best line in the review is about the character of Aslan:

Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) is a magnificent bit of computer animation, whether or not you think he's Jesus.

(And don't think for a moment Liam Neeson's participation and role don't have me excited!)

Last, but not least, they link to a trailer. By jove! If I don't see another movie the rest of this year, I've got to be there for this one.


My daughter is going to be Cinderella tonight. Curse you, Disney and your army of evil marketers! Curse your successful remarketing of your tired, old characters under the "Princesses" conglomeration! And doesn't it tell you something that your tired, old, outdated, and hopelessly out-of-touch characters are more popular than your hip, new, politically correct new ones? There's a reason why "Lilo" costumes are not flying off the shelves! And don't even think about Pocahantas! The last Disney heroine with any staying power was Jasmine, or Belle--who, coincidentally, round out the "Princesses" pantheon (and not very successfully, I might add. Belle, Jasmine, and Ariel bask in the shadows of their time-honored sisters Cinderella, Aurora, and Snow White).

Oh yeah. I was going to talk about Emma's costume. Excuse me a moment while I wipe the spittle off my monitor...

Emma's glass slippers (purchased on sale from the local Disney Store, thus inspiring the above rant) were too big. Fortunately our household is not quite adjusted to the end of Daylight Savings, and we were all up on time this morning. Armed with one of my wife's larger needles, I was able to punch new holes in the ankle strap so they'll buckle on tighter.

Both the older kids are wired. I pity my wife, unless she can get them to calm down. If it were up to the kids they'd both have come to work with me this morning, as they're completely psyched about the company trick-or-treating at 3:30 this afternoon. Emma wanted to go trick-or-treating before breakfast. It was tempting. We probably wouldn't have been very eagerly accepted, but we'd probably come away with much healthier fare. "Ain't you a little early, kid? Okay, let me see what we've got... Wanna bagel?" They'd probably say yes, and be just as thrilled as if they'd gotten a 1 lb. block of Hershey's.

Walter is going as a "tractor man," which consists of a hard hat, plaid shirt, overalls, and work boots. I'll be surprised if my wife gets the boots off of him today.

I'm looking forward to getting Halloween over with so Walter can sleep better. He's the more sensitive of the two older kids, and has been struggling with all the monsters that show up in stores, on billboards, and on television this time of year. Even the Muppet Show disturbs him. I'm hoping Santa Claus will be a little easier on his nerves. But we'll see.

It's our first Halloween in our new neighborhood. We have no idea how many kids show up in this area. I hope we estimated well, as the only thing worse than running out is getting stuck with too much. I know what you're thinking. Trust me, it's not worth it. "A moment on the lips, six months of trying to get the triglycerides level back down."

Meanwhile, a big Happy Birthday to my dad! He was born right after the big stock market crash that started the Great Depression (Of course we always tease him that it was his birth that caused it). I suspect in Ray Bradbury's eyes that makes him old enough to be a time machine, just like Col. Freeleigh in "Dandelion Wine."

Of course Ray Bradbury's eyes are 85 (not today, but recently), and a bit of a time machine himself. And one of the few authors whose very existence irritates me, as he both inspires and discourages me as a writer. I'll never be as good as him, and dang it all if I don't want to be. Other writers I know I could be as good as, and others may be good, but I would never want to write like them. Bradbury turns words to chocolate, and at best I'll only ever produce rootbeer barrels.

But we were talking about my dad. My dad is one of those people who has lived a colorful life, but you don't realize it until much later. He was in the army in Austria while it was still jointly occupied by the Soviets, the English, and the Americans. He nearly married an Austrian. He worked summers in Yellowstone Park during college. He nearly drowned when he was still a baby. He was very nearly a farmer. His teaching career lasted only a little longer than mine.

He worked three jobs for much of my growing up years to keep us all fed. And because of a few personality quirks he's gone largely unappreciated by us kids for a long time. There's a saying along the lines of "When we are children our parents know everything. When we become teenagers our parents know nothing. When be become adults we're amazed by how much our parents learned since we were teenagers." I'm afraid there's one more stage that I'm at least guilty of: When we finally learn that we've been living with greatness for years and never recognized it.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Red Scare

I don't know how we've made it this far with no major injuries amongst our children. Today I thought maybe that trend had been broken. Walter hauled off and whacked Emma in the head with a toy bus. At first we thought she'd just been bruised, but then we noticed the blood. She's got such thick, long hair that it took awhile to show.

We then proceeded to perform our own Keystone Cops routine as we tried to take care of her without getting blood on the carpets, ourselves, and everywhere else. For all I know it had already stopped bleeding by the time I started applying pressure. It took us awhile to get her cleaned up enough to find the laceration. It turned out to be nothing too serious, maybe 3-4 millimeters. With all the blood I'd imagined something much worse.

It's almost impossible to get that much hair clean, and since we didn't want to wash her hair right away for fear of re-opening the wound, she went most of the day with red highlights in her hair. Tonight was bath night anyway. Terhi says the cut is pretty much okay, just a little swelling.

Knock on wood, we've still managed to avoid the emergency room so far. The way the two older kids horse around and go after each other I can't imagine how we've survived. Our day is coming, I'm sure.

Friday, October 28, 2005


It's been a long time since I was so desperate for payday to roll around. I really, really hate living paycheck to paycheck. But we won't be getting the overpayment back until early next week at the earliest. At least I can breath a little easier now--we're not quite a minor emergency away from financial ruin now. It would now take a medium emergency, at least.

Meanwhile, here's an article to support keeping your cats indoors. If you don't, they might get to go places you don't even get to see! And will be even less likely to see once you have to pay to get them back.

Our cats are just stupid enough to let doors shut on their heads. I guess that's not so bad.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oranges and Lemons

After my brother accusing the title of yesterday's post of being a bit of Obscurae Strattonae, I decided to do a little checking. The couplet "Here comes a candle to light you to bed / Here comes a chopper to chop of your head" is from an English nursery rhyme (but of course! English nurseries must have been fascinating places!). The original text and commentary can be found here.

This nursery rhyme does figure in George Orwell's book 1984.

Just in case you didn't have anything better to think about :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Here Comes a Candle to Light You to Bed...

When we moved into our new house we inherited a woodpile. I bought an axe, knowing that eventually I'd need to turn the logs into firewood. Last night Terhi was gone with the kids for awhile, so I thought that would be a good time to try out my axe.

There is something very satisfying about unleashing a mighty swing and hearing a quick, splintering sound as two large chunks of wood go shooting in opposite directions. After awhile I realized I should probably find something to hold the firewood in before I got too much farther. Even after settling on one of our garbage cans I realized I'd cut too much. A pity. I could have split wood for at least another hour. Needless to say, I got a good axe.

And no, the title for this post does not hint at any homicidal urges on my part.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction?

Yesterday we got a box from with two items. The first is the BBC series "All Creatures Great and Small" on DVD (series 1). The second is Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders. I started reading the latter last night, and so far so good.

It occured to me while I was reading that this is probably one of the first non-fiction books I've purchased in my life. I've read and listened to quite a few over the last few years, but they've always been borrowed or gifts. A quick browse through my bookcase would show how rare non-fiction is in my collection.

It also occurred to me that I seem to be semi-obsessed with greatness. I'm more ambitious than I'm probably willing to admit. I would love to be someone great. Which is probably one reason why this morning (kids up way too early) was so frustrating. I simply lack the discipline to overcome even small things, so why should I harbor any dreams of greatness? As my family will likely attest, the only time "great" is likely to be used in conjuction with my name would be to say "Thom is a great big pain in the butt."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Financial Tip of the Day

It has come to our attention that there can be serious drawbacks to online bill payment systems. While they can be a tremendous time and postage saver, one must be very careful when using them. When entering amounts to be paid, type carefully. Make sure you include the decimal point. If the system you use gives you an opportunity to review your payments before finalizing the transaction, do so.

One frequent contributor to this blog, who shall remain nameless, recently found this out the hard way, when he checked his account online to verify the deposit of his paycheck only to find his checking account was overdrawn. Quick investigation revealed that instead of scheduling a payment to the phone company for $57.54, he'd sent them one for $5754.00. The money is still somewhere out in cyberspace. The bank and the clearing house can't stop the payment, and it won't arrive in the phone company's account for several more days.

What's more, the phone company is not accustomed to customers overpaying their bills, and therefore have no policy or procedure for dealing with this. In fact, had the contributor not brought it to their attention, they would have simply applied the entire amount to my account, ensuring that my--I mean the contributor's phone service would be paid up for the next eleven years.

Fortunately the contributor was able to throw himself on the mercy of the bank and at least got the two overdraft fees that had already been levied reversed. And fortunately he was able to scrape together enough cash from other sources to cover the rest of the outstanding bills (including the check for the mortgage payment) until he can get his money back from the phone company. He hopes.


Ironically, I'm rather opposed to just setting it up so my creditors can just take money out of my account to pay my bills every month. Had I actually done this I never would have had this problem.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Half-a-year, Half-a-year, Half-a-year, Onward!

My youngest is six months old today. It's amazing how quickly and how slowly the time has gone by. It's amazing how much he influences my life. He's such a good natured kid, though when he gets tired or hungry he can get pretty wound up. But most of the time he's very happy, and quick with a smile.

Lately he's been "talking" more and more. This morning as I went downstairs past his room I could hear him laying in his crib making happy noises. He's also been learning to nod and shake his head. Of course anything that comes at all close will meet his extremely grabby hands.

In short, he's a sweetie-pie, and I can't imagine life without him. Happy Half-Birthday, little guy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Hello, It's Mr. Nasty!" And This Is My One-Hundredth Post

To quote Frank Navasky (Greg Kinnear) from "You've Got Mail," "I...just can't help...myself."

Although one of my most favorite lines from that movie, (it involves profanity in a rather poignant statement against profanity), comes from Tom Hanks' character, upset how he was portrayed in a news story: "That's not what I said! ... I was eloquent!! S***!!"

My wife's favorite, from Parker Posey's character: "Gaaah! Where are my Tic Tacs!"

You know, that's probably got to be one of my all time favorite quotable movies, right up there near "The Princess Bride."

Pear Paring Parity Pairing

I volunteered at our church's cannery yesterday, which is always a good reminder that my job isn't so bad. Not that I minded processing pears for four hours, especially with the free samples. But it was also a lesson in how difficult it can be to operate a facility like that on volunteer labor.

After coring, peeling, and splitting, the pears come down onto a long conveyor belt. Workers stand alond both sides, armed with specialized knives, inspecting the pears and removing any residual peels, core, or bruised spots. If there are equal numbers on both sides it probably works fairly well. Unfortunately our side operated with maybe half the number that were on the other side.

This meant that someone had to manually channel more pears to the other side than to our side to compensate. Then one of the people on our side took a break (bad back), and two more just left. I and the other remaining guy tried to keep up, but we failed. The lead worker tried to channel more pears to the other side, but they couldn't keep up, either.

To make matters worse, the quality of the pears dropped significantly about then, too. They were overripe, which meant we needed to cut away quite a bit of mushy pear. Spending more time trimming more pears meant slower processing times. They finally had to stop the line until we caught up.

Anyway, it was a good experience, and I'm glad I went. I've been there before when they processed apricots, and was the lead guy. In that situation my job was more to remove pits, but next time if I work that spot I'll know to be aware of how the flow is divided. If I volunteer enough perhaps I'll understand the entire process and be really effective.

Not exactly high on my list of goals, but you never know when information like that might be helpful.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

From the Desk of...

I have a desk now. We've had a room designated as the den/guest room since we moved in, but it was deskless until this weekend. I did have a computer desk before, but it became inadvertently and irreparably disassembled in transit (the movers warned me it might break, and I told them to go ahead and move it anyway. It made it halfway). So Friday night I bought a desk, and Saturday afternoon the kids and I built it.

It feels nice to have a desk again. We had the computer set up before this, using a folding table and a file cabinet, but it's just not the same. Now I have an actual piece of real estate, a place I can call my own, even if I have to share. Next comes the daunting task of determining what of my junk will actually take up residence on the desk.

And I have a lot of junk, I've come to realize. I've got about five moving boxes in here that I've gone through cursorily, and about 2/3 of it I can't begin to imagine what I'll do with it. It'll probably all end up consolidated into one box and stuffed up in the garage rafters. Or thrown out.

I also made some progress on getting the garage organized yesterday, too. Organizing the garage is not easy when you really have no idea where things are supposed to go yet. My storage scheme has not yet taken form, so I'm trying to find places for everything while remaining non-committal about the final locations of things. Eventually I'll start to see the pattern, but for now, it's just a big mess that keeps shifting about.

Also this weekend we found out that there are worse things than my dad needing to go in for major heart surgery. It seems he's also got serious liver problems, and so both conditions are inoperable. There are a few medical options left, but for the most part it's now more a question of how long he's got. No one's been able to give us a good answer yet.

I've known for some time, at least on an academic level, that my parents aren't going to live forever. I guess I'm not really ready to accept it internally. As "mean, ornery, and cantankerous" as he may be, I love my dad, and I want to keep him around awhile longer. Perhaps it's selfish, but nonetheless true.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Go State!

It's no secret I'm a fan of James Lileks' writing. From time to time he's also produced a web version of his old radio show. Well, now he's podcasting (@ 7 mb download). The premier issue(?) is a commentary on classical music, namely Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique." It's good for a chuckle or two.

On the Rise

I'm starting to feel better. I could just be going through what my wife and I call "my period." At any rate, I seem to be outlasting my blues, and things are starting to look better. I can't say that the situation has changed much, but my perception of things is more positive.

And for unknown reasons, last night was the first night in a while where I feel like I actually got decent sleep. That helps.

I got the chance to browse television last night while my wife was out shopping for Christmas. Yes, we have started shopping already. We have to. Half our family is in Europe, and if we don't want to pay more to ship the presents than the presents cost we need to send it off soon.

Anyway, I just have to say, there's still nothing good on. I watched an X-files wannabe for awhile. Sure it was spooky and a little unnerving, but nothing to make me want to watch it ever again. Heck, the baseball game was more compelling. Unfortunately, I wasted the better part of the evening determining what a waste of time television has become. I probably should have put on the baby monitor and gone for a walk on the treadmill. Oh well. Next time I'll know.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My Name is Thom...

I discovered Instapundit's wife's blog the other day. I find she has some interesting things to say. Her post today was especially interesting, but it was one of the articles she links to that really caught my attention.

The article begins with a list of warning signs of depression, and goes on to suggest that experiencing five or more could be a sign of a major depressive episode. I have to admit that I probably qualify. There's a good chance I'm experiencing depression, and if so, it explains a great deal.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't tell you what to do about it beyond "seek help." I have to admit to a strong distrust of psychiatrists and counselors. I've only availed myself of one once, and that was in college when it was free. A professor I was fairly close to was arrested in the middle of a class trip and convicted of statutory rape. A lot of people around me were really freaked out by the whole deal, and after awhile I started thinking there was something wrong with me because I wasn't freaked out. I decided to go see a school counselor about it, and even then only because one of the counselors on staff was a member of my religion.

I don't recall much about the one or two sessions, beyond her telling me that it was okay to be feeling what I was feeling and that I was just fine. I think I did feel better having expressed some of my feelings, and that was about it.

I suspect that psychiatry/psychology gets a bad rap in the entertainment media, but I also wonder if some of them go farther than they really should and take themselves a little too seriously. I'm not comfortable with the whole idea of "repressed/retrieved memories." I also don't want someone telling me that my religious belief system is causing my psychoses (yes, I suspect if I've got a psychosis at all, I'm bound to have several).

That said, I do feel there is great benefit to being able to talk about things. I've had friends pull me out of major turmoil in my life simply by being there and listening, and I think I've been able to do the same one a few occasions. There is a lot to be said for having someone you trust enough to be able to bounce your thoughts against while you straighten them all out, and who won't get upset if your initial thoughts are perhaps raw, incomplete, and perhaps a little painful to hear.

So yes, I do think I've been rather depressed lately. Though I love our new house, the whole process of moving in and getting settled has been overwhelming. Our children's behavior lately certainly hasn't helped, especially since I feel rather helpless to do anything about it. And getting demoted at work has only prolonged the whole mess. I feel useless, ineffective, and pulled in too many directions. And I feel guilty for feeling that way, because there are plenty of people going through much, much worse. I've got a good life, and it irritates and alarms me that I can't seem to take any pleasure from that fact.

I love my kids, and it tears me up inside that I can't be more patient with them and I can't seem to change their behavior. I think I'm still too emotionally immature to deal with them, but I don't know how to change. I seem to make progress some days, and then other days I'm right back where I started.

None of my hobbies seem to hold much appeal for me right now. What I do, I seem to do out of habit more than an actual desire. It's like I hope that by resuming some of those activities I'll start to be happy again, but so far it doesn't seem to be working. I accomplish things, but the sense of accomplishment is fleeting. So I finished the shelves in the garage and built a recycling cart. There's still plenty more to do, and the shelves won't be enough to hold everything, while the recycling cart is just in the way all the time.

Don't even get me started about work.

Yeah, I think I'm depressed. Darned if I know what to do about it. I guess I just keep pressing forward until something changes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Blast from the Past and Past-er

I haven't gotten around to requesting another book on CD from my brother yet, so I've been grabbing random albums from my CD collection. The other day I stumbled across a set of CD's we'd received as a present last year and I hadn't gotten around to listening to yet. It's a collection of stories and songs about Mormon History, called Mormon Heritage. I grew up listening to this set, back when it was produced on LP record.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy listening to it--and how much it's been absorbed into my life. Phrases like "Well, he was under the hair!", "Oooonne laaaaaast look!", and "Tool of the devil, right here in the camp of the saints!" have been part of my memories for years, though I'd partially forgotten where I'd first heard them. It's been like spending time with old friends again. And in other ways I'm hearing it all for the first time. Twenty or so years changes a person's perspective.

My hearing seems to have improved, too. I've been remembering some of the quotes a little wrong. For example, there's a story about a church leader who gets pulled out in to the street by an armed mob who threaten to blow his head off if he doesn't denounce Joseph Smith. The man just looks them all in the eye and says "Shoot and be damned!"

Maybe my parents raised me so well in avoiding profanity that my brain refused to hear it right, I don't know, but until the other day I always thought he said "Shoot me down!" I guess it's essentially the same, but I think my way is a bit more dramatic. Though it doesn't explain quite as well why the mob backs down.

Anyway, it's been fun going through the album again. The Three D's were quite talented, and a lot of fun to listen to. I've also come to appreciate my ancestors a bit more. It's so easy to take for granted everything they did, and I'm as guilty as the next guy. I have a hard enough time getting my yard in order every spring, even with Home Depot within ten minutes drive. I can't begin to imagine starting a city in the middle of a desert with little more than I could fit in my minivan and no hope of additional supplies should something go wrong.

Or, harder yet, maintaining my faith and religion in the face of mobs with a free pass from the government to murder, rape, and destroy, and a proven desire for it. I can only hope and pray I'm never called on to be tested the same way. I'm afraid it'll come to that, though. For all our modern civility and tolerance, society is becoming increasing un-civil and intolerant. But I'm not going off on that tangent right now.

The important thing is that many generations struggled and fought to provide me with the priviledged life I enjoy now. My parents grew up knowing poverty and hardship, and they've worked hard most of their lives. My dad worked twelve-hour days for as long as I can remember. And I get peevish if my modem acts up and I have to reboot my computer before I can check my spam.

A little dose of perspective is a good thing now and then.

Friday, October 07, 2005

(Saw)dust in the Wind

Last night I built a recycling cart in 2.5 hours. That's got to be a record for me for a project that requires more than one tool. Now we'll see if it works the way it was intended. It's a two-level rack, with three 40 qt. garbage cans on the bottom and the garbage company's curbside bin and another garbage can on top. The whole thing is on casters so we can move it wherever we need to.

It turned out rather well, considering, and I had just enough wood to do the job. Now I'm on to more maintenance projects, like fixing aleaky kitchen faucet (at which I have a mixed track record)and getting the bedroom doors so they don't squeak. I suspect it's going to take more than oil for the latter on. I think the doors are mounted a little out of alignment and rub against the frame when you close them.

I was thinking of getting a desk for the den this weekend, but when I mentioned it to my wife she said I should build one. I'm not sure if she was serious or not, but if she is, it means I'll have to wait until my brother gets his house renovations finished so I can use his new shop. I'm getting more and more of the stuff I'd need, but I've got a long way to go before I'd be able to make even an adequate-looking desk. And I doubt I'd save much money in the long run--probably cost more if I try to make it out of anything other than particle board.

It's the weekend, finally, but it's going to be another busy one to the point that I'm not sure I'm even looking forward to it. I wish I could take a few days off and just go do something fun. I'm not sure what that would be, even if I had time, so it's probably best that I not take the time off, I guess.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

News From Iraq

Sheesh, if I keep this up I might actually get mistaken for a blogger! I read an article today, thanks to Instapundit that gives you a ground-level view of what's going on in Iraq, or at least Mosul. Fascinating (and cautiously encouraging) stuff!

Read this from Michael Yon. It's a long read, but very, very good.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Secret Combinations

I don't often get religious in my blog, but I will this time. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we include as part of our scriptures "The Book of Mormon," which covers the religious history of several groups of people in South America. From time to time their society struggled with a secret (and sometimes not-so-secret) conspiracy that sought for power and wealth, known as the Gadianton Robbers.

Today I was reading a quote from an interview by Scott Atran with an Bali Islamic leader Abu Bakar Bashir, when something he said sounded familiar:

SA: What can the West, especially the US, do to make the world more peaceful?

ABB: They have to stop fighting Islam. That's impossible because it is sunnatullah [destiny, a law of nature], as Allah has said in the Koran. If they want to have peace, they have to accept to be governed by Islam....We'll keep fighting them and they'll lose. The batil [falsehood] will lose sooner or later. I sent a letter to Bush. I said that you'll lose and there is no point for you [to fight us]. This [concept] is found in the Koran.

SA: How can the American regime and its policies change?

ABB: We'll see. As long as there is no intention to fight us and Islam continues to grow there can be peace. This is the doctrine of Islam. Islam can't be ruled by others. Allah's law must stand above human law. There is no [example] of Islam and infidels, the right and the wrong, living together in peace.
(emphasis added)

So in other words, if we want peace, we have to be at least ruled by Islamic law, if not convert to Islam. There is no other option.

Now, compare that with an except from "The Book of Mormon," 3rd Nephi, chapter 3, in which a Gadianton leader writes to the leader of the land:

Therefore I write unto you, desiring that ye would yield up unto this my people, your cities, your lands, and your possessions, rather than that they should visit you with the sword and that destruction should come upon you.

Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us—not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance.

And behold, I swear unto you, if ye will do this, with an oath, ye shall not be destroyed; but if ye will not do this, I swear unto you with an oath, that on the morrow month I will command that my armies shall come down against you, and they shall not stay their hand and shall spare not, but shall slay you, and shall let fall the sword upon you even until ye shall become extinct.

I should mention that I know full well the average follower of Islam does not share this extremist belief. I know that most are willing to live and let live. Others, not so much--but at least they're not violent about it.

But there is a definite extremist element who have openly declared their intentions. In the "Book of Mormon" the people didn't feel any particular need to open a "dialogue" to better "understand" the Gadiantion robbers and their reasons for wanting to conquer them. They saw the threat and acted to put down that threat. And they succeeded, at least for a time.

I don't want to "understand" the Islamic extremists. What is there to understand? Do people really expect me to believe that they don't really mean it when they say I will convert to Islam or die? They've shown their hand. Their intentions are clear. It's us or them, folks.

At the risk of sounding intolerant, I vote us.


I'm slowly replacing my more favorite cassette tapes with CD's (just in time for some new format to replace them both, I'm sure). Yesterday I got Sting's "Dream of the Blue Turtles," his first solo album as I recall. I listened to it on the way in to work this morning, and I was struck by how much things have changed since he recorded that album.

Back in 1984 the Cold War was still in full swing. Sting's song "Russians" was a plea for sanity ("What will save us, me and you, is if the Russians love their children too"). Twenty years later we have an entire generation who have no idea what the song is talking about. The Russians, oddly enough, are now better allies in many ways than the French or Germans.

Funny how a song can go from a political statement to a historical footnote so gradually that you almost don't notice. But ultimately he was right. The Russians love their children too, and it turned out no one was crazy enough to kick off "The Big One." I wonder if we'll look back on Arab-Western relations in twenty years and marvel at how things used to be.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Smell On Wheels

I took a walk on my break today on the public river pathways. At one point I spied an elderly couple out for a bike ride. The wife came first, followed by the husband, hands firmly on the handlebars, and a tobacco pipe in his teeth. I'm guess he doesn't ride for health.

It's definitely autumn now. Today we've got a cold wind, and even though it's sunny, there's a definite, unconquerable chill in the air. As I drove in to work this morning the clouds hung in a low blanket, pinned up against the foothills by the breeze. We've seen more rain in the last two weeks than in the previous three months.

The leaves are turning, and turning quickly. Some trees are already bare. Winter is on its way, and at the rate we're going, it may just skip Fall and head straight in. I've got maybe one more night's work on the garage, which is fortunate. I had to scrape my windshield this morning.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Staring In Real Time

The team I work with is spread out over three different cities. Today we had a luncheon with the group vice president via video conferencing. I was in the same room as the VP, and we had the two other locations on the video screen. Unfortunately we had some technical difficulties at first. We could see group one, and they could see us, but there was no sound. Group two had neither sound nor visual, but we could see them.

And so for the first fifteen minutes we all ate our lunch; either staring at the first group, who stared soundlessly back at us, or watching the second group eat soundlessly, seemingly unaware that we were watching.

We finally got the sound ironed out with group one, and we finally got two-way visual with group two, but had to get them on the speakerphone to hear them. We'd would say something to group one and they'd stare right back and reply. We'd ask something from group two and they'd suddenly stare at the center of their table and reply.

The whole thing was rather surreal. Including the sandwich. I got a turkey wrap. The label indicated that the sandwich was made with premium boars-head meat. If I didn't happen to know that the deli that made the sandwich is called "The Boar's Head," I'd be just a little alarmed.