Archive for September, 2008

More People or Fewer People

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I’m not sure I have ever been less happy about the political choices for President than this year. And the campaigns are not helping. Both sides are just downright mean and honesty is paid more lip service than actual practice. There are days when I think I just want to get away from it all. And indeed from people in general.

I once had a poster in my room. It was Lucy from Peanuts saying “I love mankind – it’s people I can’t stand.” The older I get the more that makes sense to me. So there are days when I think being a hermit somewhere out west might just be a good life. And then I realize that I’d miss my wife and son and several other people. In fact it makes me think about my current work life – working at home alone most days.

By the time the weekend comes I really feel the need to be around people. You know you’ve been working alone a long time when you start to look forward to in person meetings even though them mean long painful drives (like into Boston) or airplane trips half way across (or all the way across) the country because there will be actual people there. You’ll be able to se faces, watch body language and in general be actual and not virtual for a while.

Phone meetings are ok as far as they go. Instant messaging can actually be really good. Twitter can become downright addictive – it makes me feel like I am in a virtual room with people. It’s actually more like being there than phone meetings in some ways. I’m less shy in virtual rooms than in physical rooms. That makes virtual rooms easier but at the same time they are still less satisfying. I really don’t expect virtual meetings to completely replace in person meetings. People who think that is possible probably don’t work remotely.

I think I need to find the right balance. There are times when it is good to be away from people. I can really enjoy being all alone, thinking, praying, relaxing, clearing my mind, rebuilding a need for people. And other times I really just need to be with people. Talking, listening, experiencing. Right now my days are sort of in between. Some people interaction with my wife and some virtual interaction with people online. I’m not really alone and I’m not really with people. I probably need to get out more. 🙂

51 Places You Can’t See On Google Earth

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

The list is here. I suspect that most of them are also not available on Live Earth – Microsoft’s really cool maps site. BTW while Google has those really cool logo images on their search site Live Search uses really cool images as screen backgrounds. I love the picture of observatories that is there today.

Voting

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

I am sorry to say that I sat out yesterday’s primary. I just could not figure out what was truth and what was lies and what was half truths. So I could not even pick “lessor of two evils.” I grow more and more disenchanted with the whole process. I will clearly have to do more research before November.

Related to research I took a questionnaire at http://www.votehelp.org/ today. It gives me about an 85% match with McCain and a 74% match with Obama. Actually though I agree with Obama on slightly more things than with McCain but the weight I put on the various issues tilts the balance toward McCain. Even with about 30+ questions some things I worry about did not make their list so as unclear as this result is things are worse in real life.

My tiebreaker issue in recent elections has been the Supreme Court. As unhappy as I have been with very much of what Bush has done I think he’s done ok by me with Supreme Court selections. The recent decision on the DC gun ban case was huge in my opinion.

The VP choice is not such a big deal for me. I am cynical enough to believe that both choices were more about political expediency than real serious thought about who would be the best person to take over as President. Candidates just don’t think they’ll die in office. Even still we have a choice between one person who may not be experienced enough to get things done and another who is experienced enough but who would do things that scare me. Not a great option either way.

Steam Cleaning The Microwave

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I think I read about this idea somewhere but I don’t remember where. It’s a great idea though and really works. But let me back up a minute.

There are, I am sure, some people who keep their microwaves nice and clean. They cover everything they cook and they clean up any mess that is made right away. Yeah, well, that’s not me. As a result my microwave gets a little ugly from time to time. Worse still things are sort of baked on and hard to clean away. Has that ever happened to you? (Probably not to Matt.) Or perhaps you have been forced to use a microwave that was a mess and wanted to clean it out first.

Scrubbing doesn’t really appeal to me. I try to avoid hard work unless it is absolutely necessary. So that is where the steam cleaning comes in. Fill a microwave safe mug or glass with water and run it for a while. You want to water to boil for a while but its probably not a good thing to boil it all away. Then let the microwave sit for a minute or so.

Now open the microwave and wipe it clean and dry with a paper towel or sponge.  Repeat if necessary but generally once is enough. The boiled water becomes steam and pretty much softens every bit of gunk inside the microwave.

This post brought to you because I couldn’t sleep. But it does work. I used it today in fact.

Fun With Google Chrome

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

OK I know you’ve all downloaded and tried out Google Chrome. If you go to the address bar (Omnibar?) and enter a colon (:) followed by a percent symbol (%)  it will crash as soon as you hit the % key. I couldn’t believe it myself until I tried it. It crashes all the tabs by the way. I was expecting it to only kill the tab where the command was entered.

If I had to guess I’d guess that there is a stack overflow in the search function. It just feels like a recursion thing. I could be wrong of course. I’m also guessing that the Address bar is run by the task that controls the individual tab processes.

I’m sure that is the only flaw in the code though. I mean it is Google after all. So the patch should be out any second now too.

Trying Out Browsers

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I’ve got a couple of browsers on my laptop. IE of course. FireFox and Safari as well. Over the weekend I installed IE 8 beta 2 to try out. And today I installed Chrome from Google. Why not? Everyone else is.

For the time being I will stay with IE 8 though. The address search on IE8 and Chrome is similar but the one on IE 8 works better for me. The tabs on Chrome are on the top of the screen which bugs me. It is not as convenient and seems to be a change for the sake of being different and not for any good reason I can see. Also Chrome does not support Silverlight and Photosynth and I need those. So major fail there. Hopefully they will fix that.

I do like the default tab on Chrome. It shows your most frequently opened pages. The default tab on IE 8 shows the pages you have most recently closed which I do find quite useful though so it is not a huge edge there for Chrome. I am used to bringing up a number of pages at once from the favorites menu. I have a couple of groups that I use for specific purposes. One hit and they all open. I haven’t figured out how to do that with Chrome or even if it is possible.

So Chrome may be the hot new thing but there are plenty of reasons for me not to use it and not really any compelling reasons to use it. Well it was worth trying.

When Men Were Men and Women Were Servants

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I saw this post on the Delta Airlines blog and it brought back memories. Back in the early days of flying (I may have taken my first flight in the late 1950’s) boys were given pilot wings and girls were given stewardess wings. Of course today we call stewardesses flight attendants and there are a lot more male ones then their used to me.

It’s more than a PC name change though. There was a connotation about stewardesses back then. They were mostly young and frequently good looking. And they were taking care of a heavily male clientele. And if they were not explicitly valued for their sex appeal there was always a hint of that. Southwest went so far as to dress their stewardesses in hot pants. OK maybe that was fairly explicit. But the fact was that there was something of an idea that women on airplanes were servants. Pilots on the other hand were important – they ran things. Also that being a pilot was a man’s job.

Today it’s different. I have flown a number of commercial flights with women pilots and co-pilots. Most flights have at least one male flight attendant. And in general I think that flight attendants are taken more seriously. And well they should be. I think that on most flights the flight attendants are a lot more important to the comfort and experience of the trip than the pilots. And having to deal with all sorts of people on  a crowded airplane is often quite a chore.

We don’t think about “men’s jobs” and “women’s jobs” so much any more. It’s not gone away – just try and be an elementary school teacher and a man some time. But I think we are making progress.

Oh and if you think that all flight attendants are middle aged women – not that there is anything wrong with that as some of them look pretty good too – fly IcelandAir sometime. From what I read Singapore Airlines works hard to have attractive flight attendants. But honestly I have no complaints and cute young flight attendants are not what I look for. I have been well taken care of on Delta for years and years. They are and have long been my airline of choice. I’ll take the experience and quality of their flight attendants any day.

Fair Taxes and Income

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

One of the things my Dad reminds me on a regular basis is that one should not think so much about how much they are paying in taxes but how much they have left after taxes. Related to that he reminds me that the affairs of government (not a reference to Bill and Monica :-)) have to be paid for some how.

This morning I found this post in the right wing Granite Grok blog. It shows what percentage of the total Federal tax bill is paid by various levels of income earners. The top 10% of income earners (about $109k/year) pay over 70% of the income tax revenue. The top 1% pay almost 40% all by themselves. Is that fair? Honestly, maybe it is. Especially if you think about what people have left after paying their taxes.

The thing that struck me the most is how low the levels are for the top 5, 10, and 25%. Most teachers, who I tend to think of as underpaid, are at least in the top half with a few making the top 25% in some parts of the country. At the top end, Phillips Andover thinks of families making as much as $300,000 as middle class and offers some financial aid for them. I don’t think of people making $100,000 to $150,000 as rich. Well off, sure, but still middle class. And yet those people are in the top 5-10% of income earners? I didn’t expect that.

But it makes me wonder, how are the people in the bottom half making it?