Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Eating

A week or so ago, someone at the office sent me a list of Holiday Eating Tips. These are great, but I'd add one more to the list:

11. Bread is for suckers. That's how they get you. You can have bread any day, so why take up valuable stomach space with something so mundane? Save the room for more eggnog and pie.

Anyway, over the past couple years, I have dropped a couple pant sizes, but those old pants are sitting in my basement. Some say that keeping those big pants is a defeatist attitude, but I say it's planning ahead. I am all set to ramp up a size this week, then another size next week as I watch college football. I'll trim back down in the new year, but I like the idea that I am prepared for the ramp-up.

Note: I am ignoring this article until the new year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What Makes a Great Company Holiday Party?

I have been to many company holiday parties at several companies and have an idea of what makes a party good and what makes one great. Here are some thoughts.

Food: You don't need fancy food. Parties with filet mignon are no better than parties with casseroles. On the other hand, you shouldn't skimp on dessert. A party with good cake and pie is better than a party with dry cookies.

Music: A live band is nice, but a good DJ is better than a lame band. Whether a band or a DJ, the musical entertainment should stick to good sets of music. No lame comedy or embarrassing people.

Alcohol: This is an absolute must. Not many people are much fun at the office, but they can't possibly be that boring in real life. Lubricate them with some spirits and you can see their real personalities come out.

Foolishness: Unless someone is ashamed to show up at work the next day, it wasn't a great party. Somebody should have hit or puked on the wrong person. Somebody should have turned the band into their own personal karaoke machine. Somebody should have said something stupid about their boss or someone's spouse.

I judge all company holiday parties by the way my first company did them. GRC had two parties. One was a black tie affair at a fancy hotel with a band or DJ and a nice sit-down dinner. It was very swank. The other party was hosted by my division and happened in the halls of the office. The drawing for the Super Bowl pool was one of the highlights of this informal party that featured a potluck and a couple kegs. Most of my favorite holiday party memories come from these parties:
  • Sipping Canadian Mist and smoking great stogies in our security guy's office.
  • Office chair races in the halls.
  • Rhythmically impaired drunk people doing the Electric Slide.
  • Floating kegs and beer runs six hours into the party.
My current company has a party that is fine, but not great (so-so band, nobody embarrassed the next day, nothing memorable), so I might need to figure out how to start a departmental party next year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thank Goodness Blagojevich Isn't Black (Too Bad Jesse Jr. Is)

When it came out that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested for massive corruption, my first reaction was to check a photo and confirm that he is, in fact, not black.

I know it's shallow of me, but I'm a shallow guy. Any time I hear about someone doing something really dumb, I think "please don't let him be black." This happens when I hear about a string of murders, or an athlete making a fool of himself, or some idiot politician. I feel like we black folks get more than our fair share of self-inflicted negative press.

Let's try a short list of the infamous: Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Plaxico Burress, Mike Tyson, Bobby Brown, Marion Barry, William Jefferson, Kwame Kilpatrick, Michael McGee. I could go on and on and on.

Unfortunately, Jesse Jackson, Jr. (who is quite black) is now entangled in the mess. I know it's petty of me, but I hope that few black politicians get pulled into this mess.

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Amazing Birthday

The day started when I dropped Girl Kid off for school and she didn't have to be pealed off my arm (as has been the norm recently). Next, some friends from work took me for a yummy breakfast at Amphora Diner. One of them was actually on vacation, but came to the diner (but not the office) anyway. It was a great way to start the day.

All through the day, I had birthday wishes from old and new friends on my facebook page, which was incredibly cool.

Finally, this evening's dinner at Clyde's was very nice. The highlight was getting presents from Mrs. Kid:
My in-laws and Mrs. Kid's best friend got me music:
  • Rare Earth's Greatest Hits, which includes a really long version of Get Ready (it's even longer than this one: part 1 and part 2)
  • Traffic's eponymous second album, which has Feelin' Alright
  • Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, a double CD that features Kashmir
  • Bob Marley's Legend, which has too many great songs to list
Anyway, it was a really great day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Triumphant Return to the Blog

(not that anybody noticed, but...) I didn't post anything this past week until Web Stuff Friday (which had some great stuff), and my lame excuse is that it was a busy week. Boy Kid had basketball practice, my company had a holiday party, and I had a long community meeting. I usually have a bunch of stuff lined up and ready to go before the week even starts, but last weekend was a bit too insane (when Girl Kid is sick, ain't nobody happy) so the cupboard was bare.

Anyway, I should try catching up, but I won't. I'll just pick it back up and try not to slip so badly again.

Upcoming entries (this is my way of forcing myself to write stuff)
  • What makes a good company holiday party?
  • Holiday preparations
  • Blagojevich
  • Bailouts

Friday, December 19, 2008

Web Stuff Friday: Animals, Antimatter, and Sad Children

F*$k You, Penguin is hilarious. Some of the language is a bit harsh, but no more blue than a Denis Leary comedy album.

The Antimatter FAQ at CERN is a reaction to Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons, which is going to be a major motion picture soon. It's a nice quick overview of the truth about antimatter, but it's up to you whether you believe how little they can make....

pictures for sad children is another webcomic. it's pretty subtle, but sometimes quite funny. i like its low-key nature (start at the beginning). it has the best webcomics links page ever.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Was the Press Fair?

Over the past 5 years, press coverage of Britney Spears has been more negative than coverage of Beyonce Knowles. I don't have statistics to back this up, but I feel confident in the statement. Does this reflect a bias toward one performer, or does it reflect decisions each performer has made?

Similarly, I am always cognizant of the liberal slant the press often has, but I don't agree with pseudo-conservatives who see the bias everywhere. Pseudo-cons complained about the amount of negative press for McCain, but have they thought about the ways that McCain brought it on himself?
  • McCain shut off access to the press corps, so all they could do was look for their own stories. When you cut off access, you give up your chance to help the media craft the story.
  • It was clear to many people that Palin was a spectacularly desperate pick. Once nominated, she was cutoff from most of the media. She was not well-known and was embroiled in her own series of dramas. She also lied and kept on lying (e.g., about her opposition to the bridge to nowhere). Basically, she was a never-ending drama factory and that is going to attract negative attention like Britney attracts paparazzi.
  • When the economic crisis hit, McCain tried to do something bold, but instead, he just looked like a flip-flopper who alienated many members of his own party.
On the other hand,
  • The race for the Republican nomination was finished long before the Democratic race. No race means no news. Obama stayed in a hotly-contested race for a longer time, so he kept on being in the news.
  • There seems to be a statute of limitations on old dirt. The press didn't play up Biden's old plagiarism issues any more than they played up McCain's old infidelity issues.
  • The Dems seemed to recognize this statute of limitations on old dirt, but the GOP didn't. All four candidates had old dirt, but only the Republican candidates decided to use it and that strategy smelled like desperation.
  • Biden is a known quantity who made mistakes in the past, and fessed up to them. He isn't without faults, but most of them were old news.
Anyway, I recognize that there is a liberal bias in the media, but I don't see that bias as the primary reason for the imbalance in this year's coverage of the Presidential race. It accounts for the imbalance in positive stories, but not the imbalance in negative stories. The Republicans brought much of that negativity upon themselves.

Donklephant has this post about this topic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Wacky Obama Citizenship Conspiracy

A week or so before the election, a friend and his (soon-to-be-former) father-in-law tried to convince me that Obama is not a naturalized citizen of the U.S. I went home and did some research and came up with info from, snopes, and

The father-in-law's response didn't actually reflect reading more than the first sentence or two of the first reference, so I gave up trying to convince him. I should have kept at it, but I took the easy way out.

Sometime later, I read that Supreme Court To Review Obama’s Citizenship. The background of this review is (from an AP report):
[some whack-job lawyer named Leo C. Donofrio] initially asked the high court for an emergency stay on Nov. 3. Justice David Souter denied the request three days later. Donofrio then resubmitted his request to Justice Clarence Thomas, who passed it along for consideration by the full court.
The distressing part about this (for me) is that the whack-job failed to convince justice Souter, but found fertile ground for his stupid seed with Justice Thomas. Why did it have to be the black one?

Anyway, the conspiracy has been debunked by several folks:
But, ultimately, the Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama's citizenship. Maybe the conspiracy theorists will give it up.... Right, I was just joking.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Donklephant Echoes

A friend sent me a link to a post on Donklephant and indicated that he thought one of their posts was an echo of one of my recent posts. Frankly, some of their posts seem like better-written echoes of my missives:
Anyway, Donklephant has been added to my Google Reader list of subscriptions. They post too often for me to keep up, but it's a decent firehose of info and opinion.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Web Stuff Friday: Dr. McNinja and Wooo!pedia

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is a webcomic about ... well, i think the title speaks volumes. Go to the archives and start working your way through.

Wooo!pedia calls itself The Excited Encyclopedia. It is "...the continuing (not-very-)encyclopedic documentation of ideas, memes and points of interest generated by the webcomics ASW, DC & PBF":
I dig PDF and DC. ASW can be a bit esoteric for me, but maybe I just need to give it some more chances. I haven't checked out much of Wooo!pedia, but the Star Wars pages (for instance The Empire Strikes Back) were fun.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Step 1: Matt Heath at Epsilonica has tagged me with this meme, so here goes.

Step 2: Here are the rules for the meme:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Now, to keep on going through the steps in order:

Step 3: Here are six random things about myself:
  1. One of my favorite places to eat was a tiny Lebanese hole-in-the-wall in Paris' Quartier Latin. Their shawarma was devine, but I have no idea where it is. I haven't been there since the summer of 1980, and I can still remember the wonderful taste of that shawarma.
  2. I like to run in crappy weather. Hot and cold weather are fine. Rain and snow are even better as long as the path doesn't get too slick. I enjoy the solitude and communing with nature and the elements.
  3. The word "queue" is one of my favorites. One consonant, one syllable, and four vowels.
  4. I once voted for Lyndon LaRouche. The dude is a whack job, but I wanted to register my displeasure with both options (Bush #41 vs. Dukakis). I am not a LaRouche supporter, but I was 23 (and therefore young and stupid) and wanted to send a message.
  5. For some reason, I remember just about everything I learned in AP Biology in High School in 1981-82. Have I used the fact that it's the ribosomes that make rough endoplasmic reticulum so rough? Heck no, but It's still occupying brain space.
  6. I had malaria when I was five years old.
Step 4: I hereby tag Jon, Mishka, Charlotte, Kerry, Tim, and Jasmeen. Note that some of these taggees post often, while others have not posted for a while. I hope that this will spur those who don't post regularly to post again.

Steps 5 and 6 will happen soon after this post is published.

Update: Steps 5 and 6 have been completed, so now I think I'm supposed to get really wealthy or have great luck or something like that. Right?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Bailout: Reverse Auctions to Find Real Values

The big federal bailout of our financial institutions needs to be executed well, but I am losing hope that it will be done well.

Reverse Auctions and True Market Price
is a page with lots of information and quotes from knowledgeable people.

I know just about nothing about finance, but what seems clear to me is that there are lots of mortgages that are headed for foreclosure and have balances that are much higher than the value of the real estate on which they are based. All this toxic debt needs to be dealt with. A reverse auction seems like a reasonable way to right-size the value of all these assets.

It's like a car with four tires and one of them has a big hole, but all we are doing is pumping more air into the tire. If we don't address the gaping hole, adding more air won't help for long. Similarly, I see the auto industry's woes as another bad tire. The industry needs to fix itself and adding more money to it won't repair the structural problems they have. Some cash will help them make payroll for a while longer, but they need to fix their businesses. The auto industry big-wigs just don't get it.

I have heard the very convincing arguments for supporting the auto industry, so I understand that helping them now will ultimately save the federal government lots of money, but I hope they take this opportunity to change the way they do business.

Update: it seems that The Big Three might finally be getting it a bit.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Learning from a Fresh Look at the New Deal

George Will's piece from The Post Same Old New Deal got me thinking, then I read about Obama's nominee to lead his Council of Economic Advisors. Politico's article Who is Christina Romer? provides some interesting insight into her background, but what I find most interesting is this little snippet:
Economics data indicated that the business cycle before the Great Depression was much more volatile than the economy after World War II. Economists widely assumed the data demonstrated the success of the post-Depression stabilization policies. Romer proved them wrong by showing that what seemed like a decrease in market volatility was really due to improved data collection.
Dr. Romer thinks that the higher taxes levied to fund the projects of the New Deal helped to prolong the Great Depression.

I'm not a real libertarian who thinks the markets should be left completely to themselves, but I think we need to be really, really careful when we start using federal money to alter the very complex dynamics of our economic system.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Xmas Music Monday: Boston Brass Does Kenton

I like xmas music that swings. Here are some videos by Boston Brass. All of these are their renditions of Stan Kenton arrangements:

We Three Kings
Good King Wenceslas
Angels We Have Heard on High

Here is a MixTube playlist: Boston Brass Does Stan Kenton Christmas

That is xmas music that moves.