Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rated PG

Online Dating

Why PG?

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
ass (3x) death (2x) kill (1x)

Apparantly the tool doesn't know from jack-hole.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Windows Live Writer

I have found Windows Live Writer (Beta), and it is good. No, it's great.

After some initial install pain (getting it to be happy with MyITforum required custom selecting the CommunityServer host, and adding to the front of the 'remote post' server url.

Once configured and pointed at your blog, it gives you a screen to create and edit you post in that looks like your blog, uses the same basic colors. I find this to be a big advantage over other remote blogging utilities like BlogJet.

Other functionality includes everything you could want (ok, well, everything I could want) from a WYSIWYG editor.

Highly recommended.


So I've caught some flack - in email, not in the comments - from folks who can't believe the audacity in my posting about health care debt, and "begging" for money.
Well, first of all I like to think of it as "reqesting funding assistance".
Second of all, folks filing for bankruptcy from health care debt is a reality. It happens every day, probably hundreds or thousands of times a day. It's not something I want to do, but something I may have to do. If the fine organization the saved my wife's life isn't happy with what we can afford to pay them (which, with four small-ish kids and utilities and rent, ain't much), then they'll take us to a judge who will throw some unrealistic number at us, like 20% or 15% of income. Which will put us over the edge.
They've already cut us off from service.
So that is the position I find myself in. We don't live a lavish lifestyle (see my post on vacations a while back) and have literally nowhere to cut back. So if you want to help, great! I won't know who you are unless you want me to. If you don't or can't, then that's great too.
And if Mr. Moore is reading this, that's even greater. The Donate button is over there on the right.
And a note to click on the begging dog for more of the artist's amazing work with dollar bills.

Friday, June 22, 2007

That Bozo stole my yellow!

Random thoughts and things heard while bicycling home:

You, the bozo in the SUV that turned right in front of me: I had the yellow. It was mine. As a bicyclist, you're supposed to treat me just like a car and I was in the intersection already when you started your turn. You looked right at me, so I know you saw me, slamming on my brakes. If you would have just waited for me to proceed, you would have had plenty of yellow left to execute your left turn.
And by the way, congrats on being the only person in your seven passenger SUV. Way to save the atmosphere.

"Get on the Sidewalk!"
No, you see, if you go back and
read your Rules of the Road, I don't belong on the sidewalk. I belong in traffic, riding the same direction as you. I keep my line at the right side of the road. You have plenty of room to go around. I don't need a six-foot gap between my bike and your car. A couple of feet is plenty.
The sidewalk is for pedestrians, jack-hole.

"Ride on, Fatty!"
This may be my favorite. I've heard many variations, some not so nice. The size of my ass has been mentioned at least once (as in "Pedal, fat ass!"), which is ridiculous. I have no ass. My weight is around my gut. But hey, thanks for the recognition. While you drive away in your steel cage, likely sucking on some caffinated drink and munching some fast food, I'll gladly endure your ridicule to pedal away and burn some calories.

"That's one way to save gas!"
Well, really. Thanks for letting me know. Because that's the last thing on my mind. I was actually trying to waste petroleum products by increasing the rubber used to make bicycle tires.

"Nice hat!"
I have a big melon. I like the squishy stuff inside it, so I protect it with a DOT approved bicycle helmet. If I ever wreck I expect it to save my life. I spent extra time finding it, because none of the helmets at the local bike shop would fit the afore-mentioned giant cranium. They had to special order it. So thanks.

"I wish I could do that."
You can. As the fine folks at Nike would say, Just Do It (tm). Every year the police auction hundreds of stolen bikes for next to nothing. Better yet, go to the local bicycle shop and ask if they have anything used. That's what I did.
Or better yet, find an old bike some idiot is throwing away and fix it up. That's what I did years ago.

And how come there is only one street in town with a bike lane? One thing you notice about Madison is that there are
bike lanes everywhere. And people use them.
New law: any street widening should require bike lanes be included.


'What can I do?' - SiCKOSo Michael Moore's new movie "Sicko" opens soon. It's about everything that is wrong with the Health Care industry in America. And really, doesn't that sum it up? Health Care Industry? Treating the sick should not be a for-profit exercise.
So of course, Michael will be donating the profits from his new movie to foundations that help those with outrageuos medical bills.
Or not? Really?
Hey, Mr. Moore. Over here! Yeah, me. I've got over $50,000 left to pay AFTER my insurance company was done paying for a complex pregnancy (twins!) and my wife's brain cancer. Everyone is fine now, thank God and good doctors. But soon those healthy people will be looking for something to eat in bare cupboards, if we can afford to keep the cupboards.
I posted a link to your movie and your website. Feel free to send a little love my way via Paypal:


Spending another three days in scenic Madison Wisconsin. In spite of a couple of showers and a brief thunderstorm, the weather appears has been nothing short of glorious. I got to drive around a couple of times after work and just see the countryside. It is a stark contrast to the flat lands and tall corn of downstate Illinois.
I can remember riding the bus in high school going to Bloomington for marching band contests every year. The few of us who were perhaps more smart-assed than the rest would celebrate when we got to the "hills" along I-74. These hills could never be considered a rolling, or varied. They were just momentary dips in an otherwise almost perfectly flat plain.
This week in Wisconsin everything has been wonderfully green, and up here the hills are truly rolling, the scenery and the topography are as varied as can be. The crops up here are well on their way to full maturity not quite as tall as full we see downstate. Nearly everything is covered in a blanket of green so green against the blue skies today that words fail to describe the beauty.
As I drove rolling hills and countryside spotted by a new developments alongside old farmhouses and barns, I couldn't help but be struck by the sprawl. Yes the $600,000 mansions are nice to look at. The giant green lawns are well kept. But the juxtaposition of them sitting alongside stone farmhouses that date from the 1800s is nearly too much to look at.
I found an old farmhouse that someone had abandoned in the middle of reconstruction. It has a limestone walls that are two feet thick. It sits on a foundation of limestone that has been in place for well over 100 years.
The owners were in the middle of bringing it up to code, up to date, when something got in their way. Something as likely as trivial as time, or work, or kids. But this house, this great stone house, sat for over 100 years and will sit for 100 more even if nobody does anything to it.
They were on the right track. There is new electrical service, they installed central air conditioning they put in lighting and a new bathroom. Yet the basement remains unfinished, the floors for remain unfinished, the windows are perhaps as old as the day they were put in.
And what struck me the most about this house and the property that it sits on is that it is on the market for $329,000. It sits outside a subdivision full of people who can afford homes that cost $600,000 and up. Certainly with their money they'd bought pride, bought the land, they bought a house to showcase their wealth. But sitting less than 100 yards away, is a piece of history that less than half of that money could have brought back to glory, and no amount of money can reproduce today.
It makes me wonder what they were thinking.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

For the first time, I hate to admit, I am reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My kids liked the new version with Johnny Depp (not bad, I thought), so I showed them the Gene Wilder version that I love (It's all right here, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks...)
So that led me back to the book. Our library actually still has the hardcover original. What amazes me so far (and we haven't even made it into the factory yet) is how toned down the movies are. The kids aren't just bad, they're horrible. Augustus Gloop is not merely fat, he's disgustingly fat. Mike Teevee is beyond obnoxious. Veruca Sault is more spoiled than we believe possible.
And most shocking of all: Charlie and his family are not merely poor, they are starving. My boys were wide-eyed as I read to them about Charlie being hungry, about the family eating cabbage and not having enough of that, about Charlie having to walk by the factory every day and smell the melted chocolate, about smelling it so hard it was like he was trying to eat the very air, he was so hungry.
And when Charlie finds the one dollar and wolfs down the candy bar, we understand something that just isn't there in the movie. Charlie wolfs it down not because he loves chocolate, or so seldom gets a candy bar. He's starving. I read Dahl's description of Charlie, finally being able to put something solid in his mouth and chew, with tears in my eyes.
That's the kind of book I would like to write. Nearly fifty years after publication, to bring a tear to the eye of a reader. An overly sentimental middle-aged fat guy, to be sure, but a tear nevertheless.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Graduation Day

Insert motorboard hereI've had the unique experience over the last two weeks of attending two graduations that couldn't have been more different.
The first was your typical high school graduation. Speeches from valedictorians, pledge of allegiance, the high school band playing the processionals. It was a relatively quiet experience, with the usual admonishments to please hold applause, etc. What it amounted to was a muted celebration of the mundane.
And really the general feeling was not one of accomplishment, but just of taking another step on life's road. A necessary step, to be sure. An expected step.
I'm not trying to belittle anyone's hard work in high school. Some struggle mightily to get through the high school experience. Others, like myself, skate through on minimal effort and little caring.
Tonight we just returned from a graduation ceremony for students who had achieved their G.E.D. this year. This was a group of happy adults and exultant parents, friends, and relatives. This was an achievement for them, the highest pinnacle they had yet reached in their lives. It was hard work for the most of them, and work they appreciated because they knew clearly what they had missed out on the first time.
The speakers did not speak loftily of the future, of changing the world. They spoke of changing their world, of making a better place for their children, for their spouses, for themselves. They spoke of the struggle to hold down a job and raise kids and take classes and keep transportation. They spoke of real life, and thanked God and Mom and Husband and wife.
The people they brought to watch them walk were exuberant, joyful. They wanted to hear every graduates story, from the girl who broke down talking about the encouragement she received from her teacher to the young man who wasn't sure where he was going to go from here. You could tell they both felt like they had something now that they didn't have before: a future.
The cynic in me wanted to sit back and tell them how little their GED was actually worth, that any job that only required a GED was worth only slightly more than one that did not. But that GED is worth one thing: it's worth more than not having it. For these folks it was a stepping stone to a future they didn't have before, a future they could see but not grasp that is now held firmly in their hands.


It's suddenly February and I have a cast. All of them are people I know or have seen onstage, none of them are the people I thought wou...