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Friday, December 31, 2004

Hey, W: What would Jesus do?

Frank Rich’s next column, Washington’s New Year War Cry: Party On!, focuses on the lack of sacrifice being made by this Administration, and consequently by the vast majority of Americans, in supporting our war. Washington parties hearty while soldiers are blown to pieces because their vehicles are not armored. Instead of an all-out effort to supply troops with what they need, the Bushies party and pretend everything is ok.

Roosevelt decreed that the usual gaiety be set aside at his wartime inaugural in January 1945. There will be no such restraint in the $40 million, four-day extravaganza planned this time, with its top ticket package priced at $250,000. The official theme of the show is “Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service.” That’s no guarantee that the troops in Iraq will get armor, but Washington will, at least, give home-front military personnel free admission to one of the nine inaugural balls and let them eat cake.

I wonder how many humvees could be armored for $40 million?

Then, in the December 30, 2004 editorial, New York Times asks, “Are We Stingy?

President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday’s tsunamis in Asia. He also hurried to put as much distance as possible between himself and America’s initial measly aid offer of $15 million, and he took issue with an earlier statement by the United Nations’ emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who had called the overall aid efforts by rich Western nations “stingy.” “The person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed,” the president said.

And goes on to point out how little we spend on foreign aid, especially compared with Europe. On Nightline last night, Powell said the US gives more than any other nation. I’d like to see the per capita numbers.

Whatever the numbers, the $35 million promised is still less than the Bushies are going to spend on the coronation inauguration. That’s an awful lot of money to spend on nine parties (and it doesn’t include the bill for security), especially when there’s a war on and especially when the world is trying to deal with a disaster of the magnitude of the tsunami. I’m just wondering how the Compassionate Conservative and his also Christian wife could enjoy a ball while soldiers and children are being murdered in Iraq at his instigation and hundreds of thousands of people need help. How many water purification units, or shelters, be provided with that $40 million?

If the Bushies and other so-called Christians are really Christians, they should demonstrate this by calling off the parties, sticking to a simple swearing-in ceremony, and donating the $40 million to disaster aid. I would actually admire them for that. But I suspect their Christianity is professed for political expedience and is fundamentally bullshit. Hey, George: What would Jesus do?

posted by lee on 12/31/04 at 10:23 AM

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

crossword puzzle

Stumbled upon a very interesting collection of calculators and related stuff done by web developer (I guess that’s his title) David Rose. Besides the fact that they work, I love his clean designs. Go ahead and try this crossword puzzle, but be aware that the little letter selector pops up close to the top of the page (at least in Firefox).

His professional website is Rose is also a photographer, and has a nicely done site with some of his photos for sale. Definitely worth poking around.

posted by lee on 12/30/04 at 09:55 AM

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Monday, December 27, 2004

home again at last

The forecast was for two to four inches. The result was more like a foot. Stanley, Kate, and Ben cleaned off the driveway so we could get out. It was cold—no more than 20 degrees. At least we didn’t get as much as they did on Cape Cod, which was more like 18 inches to, in some places, nearly two feet.

There was little heavy traffic on the way back, and the roads were good. Very little snow in Fairfield County—less than two inches. We listened to BBC World News for a good portion of the trip, and then more coverage of the tragedy in the Indian Ocean on NPR.  It’s hard to grasp the immensity of that disaster. I think we’ll make a donation to Doctors Without Borders or AmeriCares. It’s so horrible.

Snow everywhere
December 26, 2004 Nor'easter: The Day After


Stanley manned the snowblower
Stanley digs out


Ben helped, and had some fun with Tattoo
Ben and Tattoo


Stanley snapped this shot of Twitch getting his sun
Twitch gazing at the world

posted by lee on 12/27/04 at 03:58 PM

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

sugar daddies, slo-pokes, other goodness ... snow

Stanley sent me a link to Hard-To-Find Grocer, with lots of stuff I thought disappeared long ago. They have Sugar Daddy suckers, and better yet, Slo-Pokes! No Bonomo Turkish Taffy though. In the store, they even sell Aqua Velva, Brylcreem, and Smith Bros. Wild Cherry Cough Drops (which made having a cold almost worth it to a seven year old).

He also sent me this blast from the past: TV Cream’s Top 100 Toys. #38 is Etch-a-Sketch, #35 is the Spirograph. I loved the concept of the Spirograph, but never could get the bloody thing to work right. I don’t even remember what other toys were on my xmas list other than I rarely asked for a doll. My favorite xmas gift of childhood was a Snow White watch. I loved that watch, with its yellow band. I wish I still had it. It came with a ceramic Snow White.

At any rate, we’re still in Massachusetts. We didn’t plan to be here still. We planned to be back home in Norwalk a couple of hours ago. Having got caught up in horrible traffic on the Sunday after Thanksgiving when we left mid-afternoon, we decided to wait until our usual departure time, around 7:00 or 8:00 pm, to head back. The weather reports were a couple of inches of snow. No big deal, sloppy, a headache even, but we have good tires.

More like six inches when we left at 7:00ish. Kate, my niece, had just returned from a visit with friends and told us the roads were treacherous. We decided to give it a whirl since I was scheduled for a physical at 9:15 am Monday that I really didn’t want to miss (I scheduled it ten months ago. Ten months I had to wait!) We figured if we could get to the Mass Pike, we’d be ok.

We didn’t even make it half a mile. Cars were fishtailing while going five miles per hour. Turning onto the road toward Natick Center was scary enough to make me have to pee—there is a church on that corner and I thought we’d end up in the first pew. Going up one hill took an eternity. All I could think of were those stretches by the Charles River and a cold, watery grave. We gave it up and headed back to my sister’s house, where she promptly said, “I told you so” while laughing. But we figured a physical wouldn’t do me much good if we were maimed or dead. Stanley would’ve tried it if I’d insisted, but I grew up in a state where you develop a healthy, lifelong respect for snow (Michigan). In some types of snow, there’s traction and driving may be slow, but it’s fairly safe. This snow is not that type of snow—it’s very fine snow that doesn’t pack because it’s too cold out, so no way to get traction.

Funny thing is, if we’d left mid-afternoon this time, we would’ve had a rough time of it on the Mass Pike, but there was no snow at that time in Connecticut. Jeff, my brother-in-law, made it to Norwalk (to visit his brother and to see an old friend up from Texas) and called to let us know it was ok. At least now my sister won’t have to worry about starting the snowblower—Stanley can do that!

Now all I have to do tomorrow is figure out how to reschedule my physical without having to wait months and months. Damn.

posted by lee on 12/26/04 at 08:26 PM

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Saturday, December 25, 2004

santa arrived very early in the day

Saturdays are for sleeping in. On Saturdays, I don’t care if I ever see the morning sunlight. Christmas Saturday, however, is for getting up at 8:15 am at the insistence of my 12-year-old nephew. Ben labored for about half an hour making sure everyone actually got out of bed. I threw on a pot of coffee, but it wasn’t quite ready before we were herded into the family room to open our gifts. But it was fun!

Because of the snowstorm in the Midwest, the ipods Maureen and Jeff got for Kate and Ben didn’t make it—the were finally sent on from Indianapolis and got to East Boston—but there they’ll sit until Monday. Maureen gave them cards with pictures of mini ipods in them—it took a while for it to click with Ben that they would actually be getting them. He thought the picture was a tease—god forbid he would actually read what was written on a card [laughing].

Everybody seemed pretty happy with all of the presents, even the dogs. Stanley took photos while Ben passed out the gifts—here are three of them. I will get the others up sooner or later.

ben kate jeff maureen
Ben, Kate, Jeff, and Maureen

The animals were not excluded. Tattoo loved his present. And Ginger’s present too:


Twitch couldn’t quite figure out what all the commotion was about. He sneered at the dogs from beneath the tree after dismissing his toy, a Hilary chew toy, because it had too much dog spit on it.


It’s time for dinner in ten minutes!

posted by lee on 12/25/04 at 03:36 PM

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

meet bailey


Jamie sent another picture of Bailey—isn’t she a cool little doggie! Jamie said Stanley is right, there is hound in the dog: Basset hound! Jamie wrote, “She is almost 10 weeks old and has doubled in size since the two weeks we have had her. She looked more Jack Russell than her sisters, who have the short, stocky legs (Bailey’s legs are long and thin). They also have the loose wrinkly skin, as does Bailey in her face, that is characteristic of a Basset Hound.” Jamie thinks Bailey will get to be about 40 pounds.

Jamie was going to head out and do her xmas shopping, but was stopped by nearly nine inches of snow (Metro Detroit area). That’ll slow things down a bit, I’d say. Better Michigan (or anywhere else) than here—our measly three-inch snowfall the other day was enough to last me for the entire winter, thank you very much. (The bad thing about working at home is there’s no excuse for an unscheduled day off barring a power failure or an internet meltdown.) We finished what we had to do today, and plan on heading to Boston late morning (unless the traffic is too stupid—then we’ll go in the afternoon).

I didn’t get enough work done this week—too much going on. Part of that was picking out my Christmas present—Stanley ordered me a stove! I’m so excited; I’ll have four working burners and an oven that has a temperature regulator in it and I think I can roast something without worrying about the oven catching on fire. I loved my stove, but it’s about 40 or 50 years old and has absolutely had it—the top of the oven is just charred shreds of what is probably asbestos. We splurged and made the move up from a 20” stove to a 24” stove. It has no bells and whistles—it’s just a stove and that’s exactly what I wanted. When we win the Powerball, I’ll get one of those ranges that are so fancy you can roast a cow in ‘em. I’ve gotten pretty tired of paying money for features I don’t need (like seven sports channels when we don’t watch even one of them).

Anyway, next on the appliance list is a fridge. A basic, no frills, energy-efficient fridge, no ice maker, no water in the door BS. That will make the fourth major appliance we’ve had to replace in the last year or so, but we should be good for the next ten years at least, especially since Stanley is so handy about fixing them until the parts just plain wear out, like they did in the dryer we just had to replace.

Time for bed now.

posted by lee on 12/23/04 at 11:08 PM

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

christmas time in dearborn heights

My sister Carolyn got a digital camera for Christmas from her son Aaron—and here are some of the first pictures she took:

Jamie's new puppy

Jamie got a new dog. Cara says it’s part Jack Russell terrier and part something else. Stanley says it looks like the “something else” is a bloodhound or a coon hound—it would be funny if it howled instead of barking. It’s about one-sixth the size of Jamie’s last dog. This one looks like it’s going to be a little bigger than Cara’s pugador, Chuckie.

Brian opens something for his new car

Cara’s youngest son Brian is opening a present. He told us he starts technical school in March; plans on studying network systems and will be going full time, from 9 to 2 every day. He has the perfect job for a student: security guard, working nights. Looks like he got stuff to keep his new car looking spiffy. Brian visited us last summer—we had a lot of fun.

Aaron and his bowling ball

Cara’s oldest boy Aaron looks like he got a new bowling ball for Christmas. (Pretty Christmas tree behind him!) Aaron works about 80 hours a week making auto glass. He says he likes his job a lot. Aaron hasn’t been out here to visit us yet—with all the hours he’s working he might not get to very soon. I don’t thing he’s been to Connecticut since he was a baby (which seems like yesterday).

Kristine's last Christmas without Matt

Kristine seems to be having a good time. So far, it looks like this may be the last Christmas she has to spend without her fiancé Matt, who is serving in Iraq. Supposedly, he gets to come home February 18. He was scheduled to go to Kuwait for six weeks before heading home, as I guess a sort of debriefing period, but that was canceled until at least after the Iraq elections at the end of January (if they happen). I think it sucks that teleportation is a fantasy because I would love to be in Dearborn Heights spending time with my family there again—the trip in November went way too fast.

posted by lee on 12/22/04 at 10:29 PM

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finally got some pictures back

For a while I’ve been intensely interested in lomo photography, and photography with toy cameras. Always put off doing anything about it until about a week or so ago when it dawned on me that if I wait until I have time, I’d never try it out.  So, while waiting for the Smena and the Holga cameras I bid for and won on eBay, I made Stanley drag out his assortment of 35mm toy cameras—you know, the giveaway cameras that aren’t worth more than a couple of bucks in the odds and ends bin at the thrift shop. (Almost all of the contents of our house would suitably stock a thrift shop ... ) He gave me a Vivitar 100 Focus Free (no kidding), a Ninoka nk-700, and an Argus Genie. He found the flash for the Vivitar which also fits all of the other cameras, and it works.

My objective was to take a roll or two with each of the cameras and send them in to York Photo to see what happened. The Vivitar and the Argus had very old film in it, and I opened the Vivitar before I realized it, so I wasn’t hoping for much with those rolls so I wasn’t disappointed (very dark photos—a couple are interesting). With the Ninoka, I shot one roll of color and one of black and white. I really like the Ninoka photos. Tomorrow, or whenever I have a half hour or so, I’m going to add the images I like to my gallery, as they came and no PhotoShop adjustments. I’ve finished one roll on the Smena and another in the Holga—which shoots 120 film. I’ll send those in to York tomorrow so I can see how those cameras shoot. I’m pretty please with York so far, and they said they do develop 120 film so I can send it to them rather than fight my way across town to Costco or take it to Kew Photo. Just until I learn their particular quirks. Eventually, I would like to try pinhole photography.

I still have to get into the habit of being true to the “rules” of lomography. It will take some time. Here are two photos from the Ninoka:

Ginger, proud of her latest shredding task
ginger patiently posing


Twitch thinking I’m nuts for waking him
cat on his chaise

Guess what my favorite subjects are. I’ll have to settle for torturing Ginger and Twitch for now since it’s extremely difficult to take pictures of Stanley without risking death by suffocation as I sleep.

posted by lee on 12/22/04 at 08:06 PM

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Monday, December 20, 2004

damned cold

ice crystals on the window

This is the view out of our office window. I didn’t expect to see this until late next month.

This time of year here in Connecticut, the temperature gets up to about 40°F. Today, at around 10:30 am, it’s 8°F, with a wind chill of between -12 and 0. It’s not projected to get above 20° this afternoon. (Thursday, it’s supposed to get up into the lower 50s!) We ended up with three inches of snow and howling wind. While the wind makes it dangerous to go out, at least it blew the snow off our driveway and sidewalk so Stanley doesn’t have to freeze his nose (and other body parts) off shoveling.

And winter isn’t due until 7:42 am tomorrow, December 21.

The wind is so wild today that Ginger nearly knocked me on my rear trying to get back into the house. She decided the paper could stay where it was, and to hell with investigating whichever creature passed by since her last trip to the sidewalk. She didn’t even bark at the pre-teenies scurrying to school; she just wanted in and away from that wind! Right now, it’s sustained at about 15 mph, but it’s been getting up to 30-34 mph. And it feels like it’s coming through the walls in our office—I’m about to turn on the space heater under the desk.

Yesterday, Stanley went over to tutor Sarah, who is taking a statistics class in grad school. She sent a loaf of banana bread home with him. It was the best banana bread I’ve had in quite some time, almost as good as the banana bread my youngest sister, Carolyn, makes. I used to make good banana bread, but I haven’t baked in years. But it was never as good as either Sarah’s or Carolyn’s.

I guess I should get some work done now.

posted by lee on 12/20/04 at 07:19 AM

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Sunday, December 19, 2004


Right now, it’s snowing. The temperature is 14 degrees F, with a wind chill of -2 degrees F. The wind speed is 11 mph gusting (an awful lot) to 27-30 mph. About 1 inch of snow has hit the ground already, with three more on tap by noon. The snowplows are out. It’s not supposed to hit 20 degrees Monday. Ginger loves it! Don’t know yet if this qualifies as a nor’easter or just a winter storm. I could do without it. Am very glad I don’t have to commute in the morning—just walk down the stairs,  pet the dog, pour some coffee, walk into the office, move the cat off my chair, and I’m at work.

I did some more work on this installation of ExpressionEngine. I installed the gallery module, and it seems to be working just fine. I LOVE the batch processor.  Check it out by clicking on the gallery link in the navs.

But, there are a couple of problems that are bugging me. When using Internet Explorer, when clicking on a link or doing a search (not an advanced search), the results page sometimes is blank. The stuff is there, but you have to reload the page to see it. VERY annoying because I can’t figure out what’s going on or what I need to do. So I posted an SOS in the EE tech forum and will probably get an answer soon.

The other thing that bugs me is that the Seach box is working weird. It works for certain terms, but not others. For example, searching for “Twitch” turns up a few (but not all) entries dealing with the beastie cat. But searching for “Ginger” returns zilch, even though I mention the pooch in, oh, 130 entries or so. And this is happening no matter which browser I use. I expect the techies will solve this little puzzle as well. Probably something I’m not setting properly.

EE is a great application, but the documentation, even supplemented with the EE Wiki and the Knowledgebase, is difficult to understand. Needs some good navigation as well (especially that Knowledgebase—egads that nav structure sucks. Too clever; not very usable.) But tech support is so good it compensates quite a bit for the inadequate documentation—which needs to be re-written by someone who doesn’t dream in PHP.

But I am so pleased with the gallery module!!

Tech support at EE came through. Chris Curtis suggested: ” ... go to Admin > Output Preferences and make sure the “Enable GZIP Output?” setting is turned off ... ” I did and it’s a miracle, it works! He also said simple search is designed to search for keywords in the titles only, and that I could add parameters to the search tag to get it to search in more. Makes sense to me.

Now I can go to bed happy.

posted by lee on 12/19/04 at 11:36 PM

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