Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Congratulations, Senator Franken!

Al Franken finally won election to the US Senate --- mere months after the vote took place, fewer than 200 days since the final votes were counted, the Minnesota Supreme Court has weighed in unanimously, and decided that the former comedian is the future senator.

So, eight months on, congratulations, Senator Al!

Yours, glad it's finally over,

Monday, June 29, 2009

The busiest two weeks of my life

Or perhaps, just the busiest two weeks of this year.
I'm one day in to the twelve day period (with two of those being off-days, on the weekend, but for the big party we throw each year on July 4th).
This morning I met the new students who'll be taking "boot camp" from me for the next five weeks or so: we start on Wednesday morning: then on to all sorts of research related meetings, ending up the day with a thesis defense (only two more to go this month, and then I'm clear for at least a year or so!)
And again, over the past few days, I have had three or four people ask me how I'm enjoying those lyrical, mystical, imaginary long summer vacations that academics are rumoured to experience.

Yours, definitely lacking in that experience this year,

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New friends

We had new friends over for dinner --- actually, I met them in Washington in January, and invited them to come visit the research group. But today, they came over for dinner and enchanted Boo and Skibo! And Boo and Skibo taught them both some origami, and the enchantment was reciprocated.

Yours, happily cementing a new friendship,

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Our town always has fireworks early (beating the rush). This evening, we walked down the street to a side road where we'd have a great view of the show, without being in a crush of people. Boo and Skibo were finally old enough to enjoy things without being too scared of all the bangs -- although the finale was a bit loud for both of them. Skibo: "I'm was just a little scared..."
Other than the heat --- real feel of nearly 90 F at 9pm still --- it was a very pleasant way to end the evening.

Yours, out with a bang, now off to be out like a light,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Chromium on linux

I've been following the development of chrome/chromium for several months now, with more and more dismay, as it is available only for Windows.
Then finally, a couple of days ago, I saw that it was now available for fedora in a beta version, and installed it.
This is my first breadbox post with it --- I'm putting it through all the things I use firefox for, seeing how it holds up. So far, so good: very good, in fact: its rendering of web pages seems fine, and it is much much faster than firefox.

Of course, it doesn't yet have all the extensions available that firefox does. Then again, neither does the beta version of firefox which fedora is encouraging me to use.

Yours, shinily,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Phone snag

I've spent the past few days attempting to switch internet service from one company (BadCompany1) to another (BadCompany2). For much of the past couple of days, I've fought BC2's stupidity, programs for "easy installation" etc. I've spent close to an hour and a half on the phone playing "let's forward the customer to another person, round and round the departments, from tech support to sales, back to tech support, to billing, etc.
And by the end of it, I was furious, and willing to spit fire, even stick with my old service provider.
But I toughed it out, got connected, figured bits and pieces out, etc. And just now I tried to cancel my account with BC1. I think that I managed it. I started the process at about 10:20, and was on hold for a few minutes. I hung up, and phoned back, trying another phrase than "I want to cancel my account" (thinking that that might just land me in infinite-loop-hell). And I waited.
And waited.

And waited.

I put the phone on speaker phone.

And waited.

And waited.

And about 30 minutes or so later, I got through to "Tanya" at the service desk.
And of course, she had to ask all the questions --- "What is the reason you are cancelling service" --- "If we were to offer you a cheaper price...." --- "We hate to lose a loyal customer..." --- that her script provided her. After all, my call might have been being recorded for quality assurance purposes.

Finally, fifteen minutes or so later, we're done. I have a confirmation number that I've cancelled service. As of today.

And they will send me a confirmation. In *TWO* *STRFUINGG$#@%Y@#* WEEKS.

C'mon. This is the internet age.

Yours, most pissed off by the fact that I actually had to do this over the phone -- since the only other options were *FAX* (yes, I said *FAX*!) or snail mail!

Oh, and the name of BC2, just in case you wish to know, is available on request.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why Snafu'd should resign

Governor Snafu'd should resign. And it has nothing to do with his affair. It has to do with the damage he has done to his state, the people of his state, the country, etc.
His affair, and his clumsiness in ending it (if that's what he was doing in Argentina) are irrelevant other than proving his hypocrisy. They are not much worse than Clinton's behaviour, or Edwards, or many others. His hypocrisy, of course, is much worse: he's been holier than thou (and me) for many years.

But of course, the real message here is: gays, you've got to stop marrying! Look how many republican marriages you're giving problems to!

Yours, thinking no worse of the governor than a few days ago -- of course, that was already very bad....

Claiming a name

not for me, of course: this one is for the current (and perhaps soon to be former) governor of South Carolina, Governor Snafu'd.

Yours, immensely amused by the crashing and burning of yet another sanctimonious small minded bleep bleep bleep of a republican elected official,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I'm in Asheville, visiting friends and future friends, and I've been reminded how much I like this city. It's a small place, big enough to have lots of amenities, but small enough to be quirky, intimate, fun.
It has some of the loveliest brewpubs I know, was non-smoking everywhere back when that was not a typical thing to do in a tobacco state, and has interesting, funky restaurants.
All this, and there are interesting mathematicians to talk to...

Yours, enjoying,

Monday, June 22, 2009


Somewhere in South Carolina, a village is missing its idiot. Oh. No, strike that, it's a state house missing its Governor.
Apparently Sanford has been giving the state law enforcement folks the slip on a regular basis --- and went on walkabout on Thursday. His wife reports that he needed some time away from his children to do some writhing or something.
On Fatheads' Day. Oh. No, that's "writing", and on "Fathers' Day". Nice family move, Governor.

Yours, sticking with the first sentence,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Comfort food for the mind

David Suchet, playing Hercules Poirot, by Agatha Christie. And an episode new, no? What more could one wish for on a gentle Sunday evening?

Yours, in a mood most comforted,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A distruption in the space-time continuum

or rather, a new installation of fedora on my laptop, combined with a bigger hard-drive, meaning that I've had to copy/move/adjust all sorts of files and settings. And the laptop is working -- after a fashion. A few things are missing, such as my aggregator of choice for news feeds (meaning I'm having difficulty keeping up with the political blogs I read -- but such is life) but mostly, it is there.
And now to tweak. Another six months or so, and I should have it the way that I want it: just in time for another upgrade.

Your, in a spirit of embracing change,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Getting around to things

Finally LOML and I went to bundle together all our phone, tv and internet services --- which will save us a small amount each month (which is of course a larger amount each year). And one of the big side benefits is that our DSL speed is going to get better ---- we've had 1.5Mb download, and as of Tuesday, that will go up to 6Mb.
This has, of course, led me to ponder: why can't they list download speeds in bytes (which everyone kinda-sorta understands, since those are the units used for file sizes) rather than bits? Other that the fact that of course, the speeds look higher, and everyone assumes that it is listing bytes anyway?

The other imponderable is why it will take to Tuesday to get the switchover to happen (which is actually a rather inconvenient day, since I will be out of town until Wednesday morning....) Oh well.

Yours, waiting patiently,

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Rebuilding computers, that is.
We are a house of several computers. Exactly how many is dependent upon how many of the old ones we've thrown away.
Our desktop --- one of the two that LOML makes extensive use of --- had decided over the past few weeks that it would be more and more unlikely to work. Fortunately, I was able to identify this dubious behaviour early enough to copy our home directories onto another drive.

Today I upgraded the operating system on the desktop, and it appears that the reason things were breaking was that the hard drives are bad. As such I need to bite the bullet soon and buy another internal drive or two. For now, I need to make sure I keep all the dodgy or old parts running.

Yours, in techy mode,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


As a result of yesterday's gloating, this afternoon the net went out on me too, the phones went out, and I was distraught.

They are now back, but I feel contrite.

And so, to echo W. Shakespeare, esq, I'm here to tell you now that

Our revels now are ended.
Yours, contritely,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reveling in friends' misery

Not really. But I was very relieved to hear that my neighbour's phone service was out of service as well. It means that the phone company has already been informed of the problem, and is working on it --- and since it affects a bunch of people, they have more incentive to get it done sooner rather than later.
Rumour has it it will be fixed on Thursday. At least the DSL is working!

Yours, connected, but less so than usual,

Monday, June 15, 2009

Everything is still up in the air

In so many ways, in so many different arenas, everything is still up in the air.

Iran? The supreme leader is investigating whether everything was kosher. No, strike that. What do we expect him to say?

Research? The students are making progress. Enough? Who knows -- we'll see.

Health care reform? Public option? Still a possibility, but hardly a lock.

Our new technology room? A meeting today went well, I think, and I hope that it will make various nice changes smoother. But we'll see what tomorrow can throw in our way.

Yours, juggling my own share, watching others try to keep their balls in the air,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Sunday spent wandering round botanical gardens, swimming in the outdoor pool, cooking ribs and chicken wings, then having dinner with friends. Bliss.

Yours, blissfully,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Glued to news sites

Not that I want to be, but this evening I am glued to the news blogs, particularly those doing what seems to be an effective job of amalgamating the news out of Iran. The whole story seems to be very fluid, and very disturbing. It's apparently generally accepted in the US that the results are impossible to believe: tie that with the reports that phones and the internet are being rendered unusable in the country, and it appears that the authorities are implicitly acknowledging the same thing.
This feels like it might be one of those once-in-a-long-while tipping points: like the weeks before the falling of the Berlin Wall, when there was clearly something big coming or like the days in Beijing in Tiananmen Square. It's not clear yet which way things will tip, whether they will collapse or stabilize and in which direction.

Yours, watching,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Okay. This is ridiculous!

I can see not knowing about Iran. Perhaps.
I can see not knowing about Myanmar, certainly.
Central Australia -- it has a time zone?
Nepal, well....
But India? India is half an hour out of sync too?????

Yours, surprised that the British Raj let that happen!

The world will end at midnight...

half past midnight in Newfoundland.

Strange. I'd known for years, decades even, that Newfoundland had the strangest time zone around: half an hour offset from anywhere else in the world. Or so I thought. Then reading today's news, I discovered that they are but a tiny
exception! Iran, a huge country by comparison to the tiny province, is also offset from almost everyone else by a similar amount.

So now I assume that there must be lots of other places offset by half an hour. Surely there can't be just two!

How did I never know about this?
Yours, clearly a half hour out of sync,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dinner out, sleepover

This evening we had a two-fer. LOML and I got to go to eat sushi --- same place as always, of course! --- while a friend watched children for us, and the children had a special evening too. Their friend came over for their first (gasp) sleepover.

LOML and I have just finished alternating reading, singing, telling them poetry, and I think that they may finally be asleep. Not too bad, asleep by 10:30, with the excitement of a sleepover.

Yours, patting ourselves on the back (hopefully not too soon!)

A fair playing field for private and public options

There's a lot of discussion going on in Washington about whether there should be a "public option": a government-run health insurance plan, into which people could choose to buy over private-run plans. I understand, of course, why the private insurance industry opposes this --- competition might force them to compete. And there have been comments made on certain sides about how if there is to be some sort of "public" plan, it has to be on a level playing field.
Unfortunately, this seems to me to be exactly the wrong thing. If there are to be private plans, then they should be expected to play on a level playing field.
There should, for example, be no cherry-picking of young healthy customers and refusing riskier business. There should be no "no pre-existing conditions" clauses. There should be none of the dubious business practices which have been the bane of the underinsured classes for decades.
If private insurance companies can play on a level playing field, then they should perhaps be welcome to do so. But it is far from clear to me that they can.

Yours, in praise of insurance as a societal good, not a cash cow,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pleasant porch parties

A very pleasant day, starting with lunch with visitors to our research program after a couple of very nice talks: then swimming in the late afternoon, and a very gentle gathering of friends on our front porch.
And then I hit the news.... and the day seemed much sadder and more worrying.
Big bombs abroad, shootings in Washington, and much other depressing news.

Yours, looking for some more bright spots,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Happy Hour

A few years ago, before the children were born, we used to gather regularly on the front porch of the restaurant across and down the street from us. We could look over and see who was there, and time our arrival nicely. When Boo was born, we took her over there early on, and the happy hour ritual continued.
Unfortunately, a year or so later, the restaurant closed, the owner sold the building (which was reconverted back into a nice house) and the tradition fell away.
Now it appears that LOML and some friends are going to restart the tradition. Except that instead of gathering at a restaurant, we're going to house hop: one house one week, another the next. We're probably kicking it off here tomorrow night.

Yours, 5-ish, just off the square. Look for us on the front porch,

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sticking with old technology

Sticking to the old technology (blogging, been doing it in one form or another on and off for decades), I was extraordinarily amused to today to read that facebook, twitter and youtube are merging to create new social networking tool.
Yup, they're going to call it

(wait for it)

(wait for it!)


Yours, grinning like a twit-face,

Sneaking off to the pool

Oh the summer delight! Sneaking off from work in the late afternoon to join LOML and Boo and Skibo in the pool!

Yours, hoping that things continue swimmingly,

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How quickly kittens change

People talk about how quickly children grow, and with Boo and Skibo developing in front of us, we do see that. But I had forgotten how much more quickly kittens develop into cats. Our two are just six weeks old, but the changes each day are enormous: this is probably made even more noticeable because they are simultaneously discovering our house, finding out who we are, etc. But they've gone from huddling hiding under a dresser, to climbing onto everything they can reach.

Yours, watching the development,

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A momentary scare

Not so momentary --- more like an hour or two: suddenly the two new kittens disappeared. We thought that we had them confined to our living room (the one room in the house which is big, really big, and filled with furniture, nooks and crannies) but despite our searching, we couldn't find either of them. We searched the house, but really hoped we were right in thinking they were still in the room.
They were -- they had hid underneath what (to me) was the obvious piece of furniture. I didn't look, because I knew all the others had already looked under there. Except none of them had. And that's where they were hiding.
Until they are too big to get back out from underneath, I suspect that's where they're going to choose to sleep!

Yours, panicked, but relieved,

Friday, June 5, 2009

New kittens

As TS Eliot said, the naming of cats is a difficult matter.
No sooner had we come up with good names than Boo and Skibo intervened. So "Ginger" and "Spot" it is.

Yours, Bombalurinacally,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Monetary relief

Some sanity, it seems, has prevailed.
The governor has been overruled by the state supreme court, and it now looks as though the stimulus funds for education will in fact go through. This should save the state's schools from having to furlough, lay off, or not replace workers.
I'm relieved. The state is already a national laughing stock where education is concerned. No need to make it worse.

Yours, praising what I see to be a sane (and legally appropriate) decision,

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sleep well, Cassie

Our cat left us today. Good night, sweet kitten.

Yours, in remembrance,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Making an exhibit

I've agreed to teach an origami summer camp next month (I'm torn between loving the idea and screaming "what was I thinking?????") and went in today to sign all the forms they need --- certifying I'm only peddling weapons of math instruction, not mass destruction, etc --- only to find out that they want to put together a display of all of the instructors' art works. And so over the next few days I need to fold an exhibit.
Now, I believe in the community ethics: I can't fold other people's works without permission (especially if the works are for sale, which the arts center wishes to be the case). And I don't have that many saleable models I've designed myself.

So, for the next couple of days, in my copious free time, I need to design something new and nice.

Yours, stuck,

Monday, June 1, 2009

Last minute invitations

Well, not quite last minute: but LOML emailed this morning to let me know we'd been invited to dinner at the home of one of my colleagues, who have a very nice house on the lake. Having no plans, and this being an enticing prospect, we jumped at the chance.
A delightfully informal event: fix-them-yourself tortillas and tacos, eaten outside on a deck overlooking trees obscuring the view of the lake, followed by "do you want to go for a boat ride?"
We all jumped into the pontoon boat, put lifejackets on the children, and had a lovely ride down the lake for an hour or two. One of the big highlights was a deer standing stock still by the edge of the lake: the only clue that she was real and not a statue was a tiny flick of her ear as she tracked the sound of the boat.

Yours, loving the lake,