Saturday, February 28, 2009

Four pillars

"These four pillars uphold the world:
The wisdom of the learned,
The justice of the mighty,
The prayers of the righteous,
And the valor of the brave."
--an inscription on the gate of the University of Granada,
Moorish Spain, AD 1349

Three things

What are three things you could do that would, in the next one to five years, improve your finances, your health, or your relationships? For instance, lose weight, quit smoking, get a degree, save $15,000, repair your relationship with your mother, or move out from that psycho bum you're living with now. "Win the lottery" is not an answer--that's something which happens to you, not something you do.

Okay,now that you have three things in mind, what can you do today to get started on them? Take a look at that college catalog and find out when the application date is; order a salad for lunch instead of the usual greaseburger; write a "thank you" note to that friend who helped you out; call your doctor and schedule a checkup. It doesn't need to be a heroic step, it needs to be a today step. Go ahead, do it now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Unconditional Love

A man related the story of his wife asking "Why do you love me?" He felt he loved her unconditionally, so he thought "I'd love you even if you weren't pretty or healthy or smart or wise; I'd love you even if you didn't sleep with me, take care of me, make money or handle the house." So, boiling all that down, he answered: "No reason." Of course, that didn't go over very well.

"Unconditional love" isn't really entirely unconditional. It takes a relationship.

A lot of times we think of unconditional love in the context of marriage, but that usually has conditions of some sort: "You have to be willing and able to sleep with me" or "you have to refrain from sleeping with anyone else" or "you have to provide me with the lifestyle to which I'd like to become accustomed" or "you have to compliment me and buy me presents on my birthday and Valentines and our anniversary--you have to love me the way I want you to." So it might be better to think of it in a different context--a brother, for instance, or a daughter.
You'd love your daughter regardless of whether she got involved in destructive relationships, or was broke or addicted or paralyzed, or didn't share any of your interests, or lived in another country, or converted to another religion. You'd sacrifice for her not because of what she can do--she doesn't even have to thank you, much less love you in return--but because of who she is. But you wouldn't love some unnamed person in Uzbekistan or Peru, because you can't--there's no relationship there.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Now reading

Eat the Rich by P.J. O'Rourke, in which the author realizes he knows nothing of economics, and sets off to visit several countries in a quest to determine why some are "prosperous and thriving while others just suck." For instance, "Free-market capitalism [as experienced on the floor of the NYSE] was terrifying under the best circumstances. What it was like under the worst circumstances, I couldn't imagine. And because I couldn't imagine it, I needed to go someplace that had no rules and was full of crooks. I considered Washington, D.C., but Albania looked like more fun." I haven't learned much about econ yet but we're still on the tour--I'm just getting to "Good Socialism", i.e. Sweden--and I'm enjoying it.

Horizons, which is the fourth book in the Sharing Knife series by Lois Bujold. "By Bujold" doesn't automatically mean it's wonderful--I didn't care for the Paladin of Souls books--but she is one of the very few for whom I'll shell out the funds for hardbacks. The series tells of the courtship and marriage of a young woman of the farm people, and an older, experienced ranger whose people have a talent for magic, and of his struggle to figure out how to use his talent, and particularly how to use it for the good of the farmer folk. I read it under about 1:30am last night and would have read longer if Diana hadn't insisted that I come to bed.
The Sharing Knife books have what I'd describe as a thin texture--not much embroidery, just what's relevant to the story. In other books, such as Lord of the Rings, you know there's a whole detailed history with all kinds of interactions and connections going on. I think of that as being a "dense" story. The Miles Vorkosigan books had some of that, with throwaway mentions of things like Kshatriyan mercenaries who could just as well have been undifferentiated soldiers. The best example that occurs to me offhand of a dense book is Courtship Rite, in which the whole history is behind the scenes, often referred to but never explained unless really necessary, and you have to go back and read the book a second time so you can figure out what was going on. Another example is Kipling's Kim, which includes little details--e.g. Dogra troops dye their beards green--which are irrelevant to the plot but are wonderful for making the setting. Lacking that doesn't make Sharing Knife a poorer story, just very focused on what's at hand.

21st anniversary

Diana and I had our 21st anniversary yesterday. She's recuperating from dental surgery on Wednesday and she's going to Montreal on Sunday so we had Italian dinner and then a quiet night. The phrase "twenty one years" sounds like a long time, but it doesn't feel like we've been married all that long. I suppose it's a case of "Time flies when you've having fun".

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oklahoma Sovereignity

I've long felt that the Federal government needs some serious pruning. I've heard that the following has been proposed in the Oklahoma legislature, or has passed committee, or has passed the Oklahoma House, or something. I haven't been able to determine quite what the real status is yet, and as far as I can see this is a non-binding resolution rather than something which has legal effect. But if they put some teeth in it, and other states follow along....


A Joint Resolution claiming sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over certain powers; serving notice to the federal government to cease and desist certain mandates; providing that certain federal legislation be prohibited or repealed; and directing distribution.
WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."; and
WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment defines the total scope of federal power as being that specifically granted by the Constitution of the United States and no more; and
WHEREAS, the scope of power defined by the Tenth Amendment means that the federal government was created by the states specifically to be an agent of the states; and
WHEREAS, today, in 2009, the states are demonstrably treated as agents of the federal government; and
WHEREAS, many federal laws are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment assures that we, the people of the United States of America and each sovereign state in the Union of States, now have, and have always had, rights the federal government may not usurp; and
WHEREAS, Article IV, Section 4 says, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”, and the Ninth Amendment states that ”The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”; and
WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in New York v. United States, 112 S. Ct. 2408 (1992), that Congress may not simply commandeer the legislative and regulatory processes of the states; and
WHEREAS, a number of proposals from previous administrations and some now pending from the present administration and from Congress may further violate the Constitution of the United States.
THAT the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.
THAT this serve as Notice and Demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.
THAT all compulsory federal legislation which directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.
THAT a copy of this resolution be distributed to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate of each state's legislature of the United States of America, and each member of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation.

Monday, February 16, 2009


We had snow on the ground in Virginia Beach this morning. Well, technically, on the deck, roof, and car; I didn't see any on the ground. We also had a few minutes of snow flurries this afternoon but none of that stuck. This past weekend it was 70 degrees, which I much prefer.

We've had a couple of large brown pelicans in the river behind our house but I haven't gotten a good photo yet. I think the snow offended them, though.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Goals progress

One of my goals for the year is to get my weight down from 202 to 190lb. Diana and I started an exercise program with a trainer about three weeks ago, working out three or four times a week. I'm pleased to report that I'm now down to 197. I'm eating pretty much the same as usual, so I didn't really expect that much of a difference that quickly.

Out of jail

She sent a text at 5:22am Utah time: "Out." Typically succinct but covers everything we need to know right now.

Update: that "Out" was sent to a contact group; she didn't call right then because her phone battery was nearly dead. But as long as "Out" is covered, we can talk any time, and that's what we've been waiting for.

Not always right

After about 20 years in sales and customer service, I've had some customers who clearly had some kind of mental incapacity. I'm pleased to see from that I'm not the only one who gets these customers. Of course, sometimes I'm a customer too....

I saw one tale in which the cashier said, "That will be $60.23."
The customer replied, "Ah, 6023, that was a good year."
Cashier: "You remember the year 6023?"
Customer: "Don't tell anyone."

I do that kind of thing myself fairly frequently. This particular case, if I recall correctly, happened in California, so it probably wasn't me. But you never know--maybe it just wasn't me yet.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


About five years ago, I decided to grow a beard--or more accurately, I stopped shaving, and a beard appeared shortly thereafter. Depending on who you asked, it gave definition, or made me look older, or some such. But I don't need to look like Honest Abdul this year, and I suspect I look old enough even without the grey on the chin, so I broke out the razor. Now I look somewhat more like the photo on the sidebar, although I must confess I'm not usually as thoughtful as I was at the moment that picture was taken.

Update: someone at work asked "Did you shave your beard?" I obviously have no beard now, so I'm not sure why she asked. I answered "Beard? What beard? I've never had a beard."

Twenty-four hours to go

Our friend should be released at this time tomorrow. Haven't heard anything from her since Wednesday, though. Hopefully that's because she sees the light at the end of the tunnel and doesn't feel a need to call. If she was hurt or if anything had happened, surely she would have called? This is worse than staying up waiting for your teenager to get back from a late night out.

Update: She called, everything's okay. Seventeen hours.

Ship miniatures

I ordered 30 ships last night, which should be enough to do almost all the battles from the Indian Ocean campaign which pitted Suffren vs Hughes. These are Figurehead's 1:2400 scale Napoleonics--a couple of 80 gun vessels, half a dozen 74s, fifteen 64s, some 50s and four frigates. Now I just need to get Joshua to spend his spring break painting them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seventeenth day in Jail

Our friend called her son, and he called me. She's had some kind of friction with one of the other inmates, and was hoping the son could come to Utah early (which he can't). He said she was crying. There's absolutely nothing we can do except pray--letters won't get there in time, she's already gotten the two emails per week that she's allowed, and we can't call in, just wait for her to call.
Eighty four hours to go.

Best Western

On February 4 I made a reservation at the Best Western in Park City UT for a Feb 15 stay; I called the hotel directly rather than through the 800 line. I called back just now to cancel it and they said that, for a cancellation less than 30 days in advance, I would forfeit payment for one night plus taxes. Interesting, in that I made the reservation only 10 days in advance; also, no one mentioned that to me when I made the reservation.
I said "If you charge me, I'll call Visa and dispute the charge". The girl put me on hold for a minute, came back and said rather huffily "All right, sir, we won't charge you", and hung up.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Now Reading

Finished Tom Kratman's State of Disobedience and Caliphate. The first one postulates that a thinly-disguised Hillary won the election and quickly moved to impose a radical Leftist agenda; after a David Khoresh-style fiasco by heavy-handed federal troops, Texas revolted. The second book postulates that Europe becomes Islamic over the next hundred years due to demographic pressure, and America becomes increasingly fascist in response. Both books have some violence in them; they're not for the squeamish. They're also unabashedly politically conservative. Even if you can't cope with reading the stories, though, it would be a good idea to read through the afterwords and Kratman's proposed constitutional amendments.

UPDATE: see the Comments for a clarification. Thanks for stopping by, Tom.

I gave up on For Us, The Living. Yes, it's Heinlein, but it's a lecture with a pretext stuck on the front. Apparently there's a story buried somewhere in there, but I didn't get that far. When I'm in the mood for a lecture, I may go back and try again. Otherwise, it's recommended for devout Heinlein worshippers only.

Coyotes and Town Dogs tells the story of the environmental movement and the founding of "Earth First!". The story jumps back and forth in time and seems a bit disorganized, but the author's passion comes through clearly and the book does a good job of giving the environmentalist's point of view. Unless you're interested in the history, you don't need to read the whole thing, but it would be worth going through a few chapters just to get a feel for the movement.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Close Action battle report

We fought the DeTernay vs Graves scenario at the Old Dominion Miniature Society's first con, the Williamsburg Muster. The Brits started upwind and on a broad reach with the wind coming over their starboard quarter; the French are closehauled with the wind on their port bow. I was admiral of the French. I intended to try to maintain a neat, linear battle rather than get into a melee. So much for good intentions.
The British position was perfect for attacking our van while the rest of our fleet crawled upwind to get into the action. Why they didn't try that, I don't know. They maintained course until they were parallel with us, at which point I decided to order the French fleet to wear and come around to the same course the Brits were on; if they didn't have the nerve to come to us, why, we would go to them. At the same time that I ordered the French to reverse course, the Brits turned in succession to attack our rear. That sounds a lot neater and more precise than their maneuver actually was, but it was adequate. Their lead ship passed just ahead of our first ship; our new line leader decided to pass through the British line, leading to two collisions. One Brit turned into the middle of the French fleet instead of following his squadron. Both fleets collapsed into two furballs, one around the lone Brit (who was quickly battered into submission) and the other a few hundred yards away where the two lines met. Both sides fought well, but the only ship to strike by game's end was that imprudent Brit, and that gave the French a convincing lead in victory points.
A fun game and one which vividly illustrated why you should stick with the rest of your squadron. As for the melee...I suspect that players read so much about Nelson that they think breaking the line is normal; and a melee seems to be inevitable once the line is broken. Next time I may try telling my captains "do not break the line unless ordered" and see how that works.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Jail, halfway done

She called tonight and sounded a little quiet, a bit more subdued than she usually is, but much better than she has been for the last ten days. She is getting along with at least some of the women there, although "putting nine women in a small space is a poor design." She's gotten the books we sent, and the first few letters.
I called the jail this morning to see about sending cash, say $50 or so, so she could get a taxi when it's time to leave. But any cash we send will get deposited to the city's bank, then they write a check when she leaves. Which is useless on a Sunday, of course. Even if we say "Please put this envelope in her personal effects for when she gets out", they won't do it. I asked "At 5am on a Sunday, with no cash for a cab and if she doesn't have friends or family in state to be able to pick her up, how do you expect her to be able to get to town?" The answer was, verbatim: "That's not our problem." I leave you to imagine what my reaction was. His boss doesn't have to imagine.
As it happens, we can prepay the cab company, so she'll be okay.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How to sell a burned out lightbulb

From Marginal Revolution:
For most of us, it is hard to fathom the rationale for a market in burnt-out light bulbs. But in the scarcity-driven Soviet economy, the market was entirely reasonable. Light bulbs were rarely available to individual consumers, but were obtainable for state-sponsored activities. Thus, it would be difficult to purchase a light bulb for a new lamp in one's home, while burnt-out bulbs in state-run offices or factories were routinely replaced. So if someone purchased a new lamp and needed a bulb, he would buy a used light bulb for a small fee and replace a functioning bulb at work with the dud. He would then take the functioning bulb home for the new lamp, while the burnt-out bulb at the office/factory would be replaced with a new functioning bulb. Meanwhile, the maintenance person at the office/factory would take the used bulb and sell it on the used light bulb market.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sixth night in Jail

Our friend called Sunday night and talked to Diana (I was flying home from Nashville). She's doing better, and is getting along with the other women there. It sounds like she's bored; she's read several novels, and she doesn't ordinarily read fiction (ed: except the newspaper). The jail provides AA meetings and she's been going to those, I think primarily for something to do. She said that she was amazed by what some of the other women have endured. They're not allowed to call cellphones so she gave us some messages to pass along to people she can't call.
Two weeks to go.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nashville day two

Blueberry pancakes for breakfast, Hooters mushroom swiss burger for lunch--I'm not losing any weight on this trip. Must get Jon's pancake recipe. Between breakfast and lunch, we walked around a rocky area for an hour, finding stones with fossilized shells, and talking. In the afternoon was a birthday party for Miles, with nephews and niece and miscellaneous other kids running around. Once things quieted down, Jon and I watched The Bourne Identity, and that finished the day.