Browse Month: December 2006

12/29/2006

As evidence that Laralee is truly the greatest person ever, she went out today– after the second-worst snowstorm in the last decade– and shoveled our driveway.

Why is this amazing?

1) Our driveway is about sixty feet long.
2) It faces north, meaning it’s usually iced over and never melts from sunlight.
3) She had already shoveled it three days ago, after the worst snowstorm in the last decade.

But even more amazing:

4) She then shoveled the driveways of three of our neighbors, and the sidewalk along the entire street.

The neighbors were all out of town (presumably visiting family for the holidays) and Laralee thought how much it would suck to come home from a vacation and find your driveway buried under almost two feet of snow. So she spent almost four hours huffing and puffing in 25-degree weather, and when Bill and Greg and Tami all get back home, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Now I probably owe her a backrub or something.

12/29/2006

“I’m the commander– see, I don’t need to explain… I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being president.”

— President George Bush, in the book Bush at War

“I’m also not very analytical. You know I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things.”

— President George Bush, June 4 2003

“I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe… I believe what I believe is right.”

— President George Bush, July 22 2001

“See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don’t attack each other. Free nations don’t develop weapons of mass destruction.”

— President George Bush, Oct 3 2003

“If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”

— President George Bush, Dec 19 2000

Let’s give him a hand, ladies and gentlemen! Truly a man of powerful words.

12/25/2006

“A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”

— Mark Twain

12/25/2006

La’s been listening to Christmas music almost non-stop since Thanksgiving, so I’ve had a chance to hear all sorts of songs I don’t usually jam to while I’m working.

One of the more “fun” Christmas songs is the Spanish song “Los Peces en el Rio”, which is translated as “The Fishes in the River”. It was playing just now and I asked La what the heck a bunch of fish in the river have to do with Christmas. She said she couldn’t understand the lyrics– it’s a pretty fast song and her Spanish is a bit rusty– but of course I was curious so I looked up the lyrics.

Here are a few selected stanzas from the song, translated into English:

“They drink and they drink
And they return to drink,
The fishes in the river,
To see God being born.”

Aha! Obviously there’s the link to Christmas: the fish are drinking (and then drinking some more, apparently) as they watch Jesus. But here’s the best line:

“The Virgin washes diapers
And hangs them on the rosemary,
The birdies singing
And the rosemary flowering.”

Uhh. Mary is washing diapers? I mean, sure, you know she did it at some point (even Jesus had to poop) but it seems like a strange thing to put in a Christmas song.

Anyway, it’s still a fun song…

12/21/2006

Whee! This is the kind of Colorado snowstorm I love.

Poor Zack could hardly walk through the snow:

Of course there’s the one downside:

12/20/2006

Today’s another day when it’s good to work at home.

12/14/2006

We were at Pizza Hut the other day (yes, nothing but the best for the Schroeder Clan!) and one of the kids’ menus had a bunch of “what if” questions.  There were the usual “what if you had three wishes” and “what if you were President for a day”, but the one that got me thinking was “what if you had a million dollars”.

I remember as a kid thinking that a million dollars was a near-infinite amount of money.  Via time, inflation, and perhaps just the general realities of adulthood, I now realize that a million dollars isn’t actually all that much money.

Granted, it’s a mountain of cash and I wouldn’t turn it down, but it’s not like you can retire on that these days.  Since that’s one of my big goals for the next six years or so (retire at 40) it would certainly help me hit that goal, but by itself it’s just not enough.

So, pondering a bit, I wondered what I would really do if I received a million-dollar check today.

Would I stash it all into investments, playing with stocks and mutual funds and so forth?  Would I buy a bunch of real estate (in this market– yikes) and hope to cash out in a few years?  Although these are probably sound financial moves, they’re pretty boring.

To be less boring, maybe I would blow it all on powerboats and elaborate vacations and spiffy electronic gadgets.  That would be fun until I ran out of cash and the next year’s gadgets came out and were all ever-so-slightly better than the ones I have.

Perhaps there would be more reasonable things to buy: two new cars, since both mine and Laralee’s are struggling at 12 years.  Pay off the mortgage.  Redecorate the house and replace the ancient particle-board bookshelves.

And then there’s the philanthropic aspect to consider: donate money to a worthy charity.  Give lavish gifts to friends and family.  Help the people I know are struggling financially by sending an anonymous chunk of cash.

In short, I really don’t have any idea what I would do.  I suppose the answer to this question would reveal a lot about one’s personality, and how generous (or selfish or short-sighted) they are.

What would you do?

12/14/2006

I found another t-shirt that I need to have in my wardrobe whenever I’m going to fly somewhere:

This is Allen Jasson, an Australian man who was flying from Melbourne to London and was told he wouldn’t be allowed to board the airplane unless he removed his shirt. Clearly I need one.

12/12/2006

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

— Douglas Adams

12/09/2006

Today I did the unthinkable. I actually bought a pair of tennis shoes.

I think the last pair I bought was somewhere around eight or nine years ago. I’ve bought a couple pairs of sandals since then, but I only wear my tennis shoes a few times a year, so they’ve persisted through the ages.

I was reminded of Obi-Wan Kenobi, when he muttered the immortal lines:

“New shoe smell… now that’s a smell I haven’t smelt in a long time. A long time.”

12/06/2006

Uh oh.

In more than eighty clinical trials, Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King’s College London University, found that workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than if they’d smoked marijuana. The IQ of those juggling messages and work fell by an average of ten points– equivalent to missing a whole night’s sleep and more than double the four-point fall seen after smoking pot.

I guess I should light up instead of checking my e-mail so much…

12/06/2006

And so it begins.

London Heathrow Airport is now asking airline passengers to be fingerprinted and iris-scanned in order to board flights.

Right now this is a voluntary thing, but you know it’s only a matter of time before it’s mandatory. Before you can get on your plane, you’ll need to hand over (get it?) biometric data that must match your electronic passport.

Coupled with last week’s news that Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport has installed a full-body x-ray machine that can essentially “see” through clothes and generate an image that essentially shows the passenger nude, it seems like we’ll have to surrender all personal dignity if we want to fly anywhere.

12/06/2006

So the Iraq commission has spoken, and things don’t look pretty. It sounds like they’ve pretty much decided that Bush’s strategy in Iraq is an abysmal failure, things are going to get worse before they get better, and a military solution probably isn’t even possible.

Despite a massive effort, stability in Iraq remains elusive and the situation is deteriorating. The ability of the United States to shape outcomes is diminishing. Time is running out.
There will be no military solution in Iraq. It will require a political solution.
Because none of the operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi military forces are fundamentally changing the conditions encouraging the sectarian violence, U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end.

Et cetera.

Now, I don’t think any of this really comes as a surprise to anyone. Bush, of course, continues to live in his own little world, and I wonder if he’s just being stubborn at this point by refusing to admit he’s been wrong all along, or if he’s really that stupid.

Either way, he made an interesting comment:

This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion.

Now, regardless of how I feel about this whole situation, or Bush in general, I find myself wondering (not for the first time) why it seems like the entire Iraqi situation is in Bush’s hands. Why does the committee have to deliver a report to him? Why does he get to sit in his big chair and say he’ll consider what they say and then decide what to do?

Shouldn’t Congress be making that decision? The last time I checked, they were tasked with the responsibility of declaring war and managing the armed forces. Yes, yes, the President has authority under certain conditions and so forth, but I honestly don’t see how he can continue making the case that “I’m the Commander-in-Chief so what I say goes.”

We all know that Congress was a bunch of spineless yes-men for the past six years, and the Democrats often talked tough but never really stood up to the administration, but I would think (and hope) that with their majority they’d now step forward and tell Bush the way it’s really going to be. We have an independent, bipartisan commission spending months reviewing the situation in Iraq and delivering a report that says in every way possible that our policies are a failure, and even recommends possible avenues to pursue, but Bush still acts like he’s got some Secret Plan (*cough* Nixon) to turn this thing around.

When Congress reconvenes they’d better slap him around like a crying kid in a department store.

Oh, and one more item from the report:

Caring for veterans and replacing lost equipment will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Whee. I’m so glad we’re doing this.

12/05/2006

It’s a sad fact that every now and then I have to boot my Windows XP system so I can test a web site in Internet Exploder and make sure things work properly. I saw a reference to a software package that makes Windows look like Mac OS X, so I thought I’d give it a shot and see what happened.

Wow. It looks exactly like OS X, down to buttons, window bars, drop shadows, and even the dockbar. Amazing.

Of course it may look nice, but it’s still Windows underneath the fancy graphics. At least I can enjoy the appearance when I fire up IE.

12/02/2006

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

— Isaac Asimov