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Here's a meme game from Maradydd's lj:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your LJ along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

She goes on to say "Two journalpoints to the first person to identify what book it was."
I don't know what journalpoints are, but I guess the fun part is trying to make the ID.

Here's what was next to my computer desk:
'He stood up. "If there's a stiff it'll be next to it. You take that side. I'll take the other."'


Nov. 5th, 2008 08:26 pm
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We have a new president!
Funny, the news is now saying how much of a centrist he is. A few days ago they were saying he was the most liberal of liberals.

Anyway -- I logged onto BBC this morning to see what our cousins across the pond were saying. Good articles. But I was amused by the juxtaposition of a certain ad...

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The Republicans continually assert that increasing taxes on the upper tax bracket would hurt small businesses, reduce investment, and lose us jobs. This assertion has gone unchallenged. But it doesn't make sense to me.

Tax is on profits, not receipts. I file a Schedule C. Any investment I make in the business is deducted from my gross receipts before tax is calculated. The easiest way for me to reduce my taxes is to increase investment in my business. Therefore, increasing tax on the highest tax bracket is likely to increase, not decrease, business investment.

But wait -- if the business owner takes the profit, he's going to invest it, right? Well, no. Not in his business; if he did that it wouldn't be profit. And not in other small businesses, because the ma-and-pa businesses under discussion are not publicly traded.

And if he uses his profit to buy stock it doesn't contribute to business investment or productivity. "Huh?" you might say. But unless the stock is newly-released stock, the money paid for it doesn't go to the company. The money just churns back and forth as stock is traded, but nothing goes back to the original company.

Contrast that with what happens when a lower-income person is taxed less and has extra money. That person is much more likely to spend it on goods and services. This increases demand and directly stimulates the economy. If the money is not immediately spent, it is likely to go into the bank, where it is then available for local small-business loans - again, a greater stimulus than stock investment would be.

So increased taxes on high incomes does not hurt small businesses; on the contrary.

I ran this by some economists - not particularly liberal ones - who said my reasoning was essentially correct. I don't know why the Democrats aren't presenting it like this.
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OK. Today is the "Pulpit Initiative" sponsored by Ralph Stanley and the ADF (Alliance Defense fund). Haven't heard anything yet on the news on how it went off. But we'll see. Maybe it just fizzled. Actually, I hope so.

The Pulpit Initiative, for those who haven't heard, is blatant preaching from the pulpit on behalf of a particular political candidate (wanna guess which one?). The ADF claims this is a First Amendment issue; they want "to restore a pastor’s right to speak freely from his pulpit without fearing censorship or punishment by the government. " (

No one is trying to censor or punish pastors. That is a complete misstatement of the situation.

The 1954 Johnson act bans non-profits from intervening in politics. They can speak on political issues; that's fine. The line is drawn at actually endorsing or condemning a particular candidate. If any non-profit 501c3 (not just a church) crosses this line, they can lose of their IRS tax-exempt status. There is no felony or misdemeanor here. No one would be arrested. It is an administrative matter, a loss of privileged status.

But this loss of a privileged status is being cast as a 'punishment'. Stanley says it infringes both freedom of speech and separation of church and state. 

Pastors can say anything they want, as private citizens. And, if they are willing to forgo their privilaged status, they can also say anything they want from the pulpit. But when they act like a political action committee, they are subject to taxation as a PAC. Donations are not tax-deductible and the church organization will have to pay taxes like anyone else.

Neither religious expression nor free speech is really the issue -- seems like a transparent economic motive to me.

Several of the pastors interviewed on this issue seem to think that the tax-exempt status of churches is enshrined in the Constitution. It isn't. Nothing in the Constitution addresses taxation of churches, or any exemption for churches. The IRS itself only dates from 1913. Where does this idea come from?

The Constitution does have the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This was ratified December 15, 1791.

The Johnson Act applies to any organization which wishes to enjoy tax-exempt status. It does not single out churches, nor does it in any way "prohibit the free exercise" of religion; it just defines the IRS requirements for the special privilege of tax exemption.

I used to be treasurer at my church, and currently chair the Finance committee. And I know that we have never, since the 1600s, ever paid property taxes on the church building. So there is some sort of tax exemption that has "always existed". But if we are going to go back to colonial times, we should look at the whole picture.

Many of the first colonists were religious fanatics who chose to be governed by a theocracy. (The Taliban would be a good modern analogy.) The church was the government, and the government collected money via church tithes. The English had an official State Church but the Puritans felt that the government was not church-centered enough. They elevated the church above secular government. For example, you could not be a member of the governing council unless you were a respected member of the church (essentially a church elder).

The new Jerusalem couldn't last, however. Roger Williams and other religious dissidents broke off to form a separate colony which was the first to explicitly guarantee religious freedom and tolerance. Churches were no longer the seat of government, but they were often the largest buildings in the community and served as community gathering spots. Church property was not taxed, but their previous direct support was taken away. By providing services, they essentially paid tax "in-kind".

How does property tax exemption relate to separation of church and state? And should it continue?

State-level exemptions for church property exist in all 50 states, but in some states they must be applied for, and in many jurisdictions the exempted property is narrowly defined (for instance, the church itself is exempted, but not a parish hall, etc.).

Recent court decisions have been interesting. In 1970, an athiest (I believe) named Walz sued the Tax Commission of the City of New York, saying that the church tax exemption violated the the"no establishment" clause of the first amendment. The court ruled that while a direct tax subsidy would be a violation, a property tax exemption was not, since it did not give money to churchs, it merely abstained from demanding the church support the state.

In 1972, the tenth Circuit Court stated this more strongly: "tax exemption is a privilege, a matter of grace rather than a right." In 1983, the Supreme Court stated that "Both tax exemptions and tax deductibility are a form of subsidy that is administered through the tax system. A tax exemption has much the same effect as a cash grant to the organization of the amount of tax it would have to pay on its income."

The stage is set for another lawsuit. I think with the 1972 and 1983 clarifications, there is a very good chance that a suit claiming that tax-exemption constitutes a tax subsidy which violates separation of church and state would fly. And judging by the comments I've read about the Pulpit Initiative, this would be welcomed by major segments of the population.

Our church has always avoided taking federal monies, because with federal money comes federal oversight, and the church believes in social activism which often runs counter to the government's stances. If tax exemption is ruled to be a federal subsidy, I don't think a heck of a lot would change. We would need to come up with the money for property tax, which would admittedly be a burden, but so are the higher fuel prices this year, and the need for a new roof. We would just have to suck it up. Would donations go down if they were not tax-exempt? Probably not to a significant extent. Basket donations are anonymous, and few donors give so much that they are issued documentation for their taxes. I think that most people give because they want to support the church, not because they want a tax deduction.

Some religious sites are claiming that taxation would constitute government control over a church, since the power to tax implies a power to regulate and possibly to destroy. But I think they are confusing the church as a religious body with the physical property of the church. My church has very little organization, and what it has is all volunteer. Our entire budget is probably lower than the threshold required for reporting to the IRS. If necessary, we could meet in private houses, and while it would make some of our outreach efforts more difficult, it would not compromise our religious beliefs.

Other churches have multimillion dollar stadiums to accommodate thousands of people, or run television studios as part of their mission. Is that structure required for their religious beliefs, or is it merely an organization founded on religious beliefs, which could fulfil its mission just as well if it were commercial and paid taxes?

This Pulpit Initiative might backfire. The easiest way to free preachers to campaign from the pulpit is to remove the one thing that prevents them from doing so -- the tax-exempt status of churches.
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On Friday, I heard one of the wikipedia founders mention that Sarah Palin's wikipedia entry had been extensively edited in the week or two before the announcement of her selection by McCain. The person doing the editing had signed in with a false name, and the changes were favorable, so wikipedia suspected something not-quite-right was up and they froze the entry.

This, of course, piqued my curiosity and went to see what wikipedia had to say. Many people do not know that wikipedia keeps a log of changes, and you can pick a date to compare the current entry to. I chose a date at the end of July. The changes mostly consisted of making her image more polished.

==Beauty Queen==
For instance, regarding her beauty queen experience: "In 1984, Palin competed in the Miss Alaska contest after being chosen Miss Wasilla that year" was changed to "In 1984, Palin won the Miss Wasilla beauty contest (playing the flute), then finished second in the Miss Alaska pageant,at which she won a college scholarship and the "Miss Congeniality" award." This makes it seem less like a meat market and more like a talent contest and scholarship opportunity.

==Wrongful Dismissal Suit==
The story of how she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan was also cleaned up a bit.
In July, Palin fired Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan. He claimed he was fired over his reluctance to fire an Alaska State Trooper involved in a divorce and child custody battle with Palin's sister. In the earlier report, Palin said he was fired so the department could move in a "new direction". There is an investigation into the matter, with a report due in October.

The edit added that Monegan was dismissed for "performance-related issues", and says Palin offered him an alternative position as executive director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which he turned down. Regarding the charge of inappropriate pressure, Palin has apparently "discovered" that, unbeknownst to her, her staff had contacted Monegan about two dozen times on this matter. She has hired counsel.

Not exactly a positive spin, but the newer article goes on to say that Kopp, the man Palin chose to replace Monegan, resigned only two weeks later when it was revealed that he had received a letter of reprimand for sexual harrassment in his previous position.

An article in the Anchorage Daily News on the 2006 gubernatorial race was quoted.

On marijuana: "Palin said she has smoked marijuana -- remember, it was legal under state law, she said, even if illegal under U.S. law -- but says she didn't like it and doesn't smoke it now."

On Abortion: "In 2002, when she was running for lieutenant governor, Palin sent an e-mail to the anti-abortion Alaska Right to Life Board saying she was as "pro-life as any candidate can be" and has "adamantly supported our cause since I first understood, as a child, the atrocity of abortion.""

On Gay Marriage:"...she supported the 1998 constitutional amendment.[banning gay marriage and defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.]
Elected officials can't defy the court when it comes to how rights are applied, she said, but she would support a ballot question that would deny benefits to homosexual couples.
"I believe that honoring the family structure is that important," Palin said. "

The rest of this is all in the current wikipedia article.

==Autocratic Management Style==
Palin has a high-handed, centralized approach to governing. When she became Mayor, she fired most of the people in town government who did not support her, including the Wasilla police chief, librarian, public works director and finance director. She also tried to get books that she found objectionable removed from the library, but when the town residents pushed back, she let it drop and rehired the librarian. After that, she instituted a policy requiring department heads to get her approval before talking to reporters.

She did something similar when she became governor. She fired a number of people who had been recently appointed by the outgoing governor.

I do not like this. It sounds like more of Bush's "I'm the decider -- and to hell with you" mentality.

As mayor, Palin was very successful at lobbying for and getting federal funds earmarked for projects in Wasilla. She got nearly 27 million dollars in earmarked funds -- not bad for a community of less than 7000 people.
She ran for governor on a "build the Gravina Island bridge" platform, but when the bridge became known as the "bridge to nowhere" Congress changed the earmark to be for general infrastructure. Palin chose to use the money to continue road construction to the bridge location while investigating less-expensive alternatives to the bridge itself. Eventually, she announced that she was stopping work on the bridge. This earned her brownie points as an anti-earmark fiscal conservative, and brought her to McCain's attention. On accepting McCain's nomination, she said "I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere". This upset political leaders in Ketchikan, including Palin's campaign coordinator there, Mike Elerding, who is quoted in wikipedia as saying, "She said 'thanks but no thanks,' but they kept the money."

Palin is also on record opposing the listing of the Polar bear as an endangered species, and for extending the practice of shooting wolves and bears from airplanes.

What exactly is Palin's experience?
Two terms as city councilor, Wasilla AK (population 6715)
Two terms as mayor, Wasilla AK
Unsuccessful bid for Leutenant governor, 2002
Successful bid for governor, 2006. Outgoing governer Murkowski in midst of a scandal.

As governor of Alaska, she is Commander in Chief of the Alaska National Guard. McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds gave this as an example of foreign policy experience. However, the commander of the Guard, Major General Craig E. Campbell, said that Palin plays no role in national defense activities relating to the Guard. Palin visited the Guard in Kuwait and in Germany; other than to Canada, that seems to have been her first trip out of the US.

==Probably Irrelevant but Interesting==
Todd, Sarah Palin's husband, is a four-time champion of the Iron Dog, the world's longest snowmobile race. Todd also has a native (Yup'ik) grandmother, which makes his and Sarah's children one-eighth Alaskan Native. Haven't heard that talked up at all.

We will see what we will see.


Aug. 26th, 2008 11:02 am
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Maybe it's a bit late to be furious, but I just found out about the 1823 Supreme Court case Johnson v M'intosh.

This piece of racist, imperialistic *sh*t* has never been overturned and in fact is relied on for later court decisions. Arrgh!!! My regard for the Supreme Court is now no higher than for other branches of government. I am ashamed.

Why am I so upset? Because this case not only twists history and incorporates self-serving stereotypes to provide a legal justification for the appropriation of Native lands, it does so using circular logic that wouldn't stand up in a good debate, and is thoroughly unworthy of the highest court in the land. And which pulls the foundations out from under those who acted honorably.

Details: One person bought land from tribes in 1773 and 1775. These were transactions authorized by the entire tribe, and the tribe shared the money from the sale. Later the state of Virginia sold the same land to someone else. The question before the Supreme Court was, which title was valid?

The Supreme Court ruled that land title purchased from Indians was not valid because the land was "discovered" by European explorers, and since two valid titles could not coexist, the Indians only held a right to occupancy, not a right to conveyable title.

The European legal principle of discovery stemmed from a Papal decree which allowed Christian nations to claim any land owned by non-Christian peoples. That this principle applied was 'proven' by the fact that the European nations recognized each other's claims and had made treaties with each other that conveyed land back and forth as if their title was valid.

Treaties with the Indian nations were dismissed as unnecessary PR gimmicks; something to pacify the tribes, but nothing with any legal standing. The fact that land claims in the northeast, based on title purchased from the Native tribes, had been recognized by the United States, was seen as a historical anomaly (in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, and other parts of the Northeast, the original colonial founders insisted on purchasing land upon which to plant the colony). The implication was that the purchase was unnecessary and somewhat regrettable, since it muddied the clean application of the so-called law of discovery. The fact that those colonies then sought European grants for the same land was seen as proof that the purchase from the tribes did not actually convey title.

In dismissing Indian treaties, Justice John Marshall exhibited an appalling lack of knowledge of the history of colonization, and promulgates the worst stereotypes. He characterized the Indian nations as being composed of nomadic hunters, little different from deer or game animals who live on but do not own the land. He says they had no government to speak of -- notwithstanding the fact that the earliest explorers spoke of kings and nations, and that our founding fathers acknowledged the debt the US constitution owed to political practices of (at least) the Iroquois confederacy.

OK. Maybe you are not as surprised as I am. Sure, I've heard these ideas before. But I've always assumed that they were the ill-reasoned, ill-informed, historically inaccurate, and racist views of those who needed to justify the crimes of their ancestors. Instead, I find they are ill-reasoned, ill-informed, historically inaccurate, and racist judgements that have unfortunately (under the doctrine of stare decisis become part of our legal system and a basis for further judicial travesties.

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Thanks to ernunnos who posted this in maradydd's lj. I had to repeat it.
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The Bureau of Land Management has just decided to call a two-year moratorium on solar projects placed on public land, most notably including the Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, in order to conduct extensive environmental impact studies.

Environmental impact studies are good. But note that other projects with similar tower foundations and shade effects have not been shown to have any deleterious effects, so it seems the likelihood of negative impact is small. A moratorium seems a bit draconian.

Meanwhile, Congress is being pressured to run pell-mell into drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness and the waters of the continental shelf, despite the well-known negative environmental impacts of oil drilling and oil spills.

I suppose the requirement is merely that an environmental impact study be done, not that it must conclude that a project is relatively benign. We KNOW oil drilling does a lot of damage, while we only THINK that solar panels cause minimal disturbance. Obviously, oil drilling is therefore preferable to setting up solar panels.

Meanwhile, federal solar investment tax credits are set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress renews them. Federal tax credits for speculative drilling and ridiculously low public land leases to oil companies (usually with no charge for the oil they remove) continue unabated. That's the way the current administration likes it.

The CLEAN energy act (H.R. 6) would remove the "preferential tax treatment afforded intangible domestic drilling expenses (primarily labor and material costs associated with finding and exploiting oil and gas fields)", and use that money to subsidize alternative energy.

The Cato institute, in their critique of the CLEAN energy act, mentions that "the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that eliminating those preferences for intangible drilling expenses would save the taxpayer $7.6 billion over ten years."

With Congress behind taking investment out of oil and into solar, the oil-backed administration has resorted to green-sounding environmental concerns to justify a unilateral administrative delay. It's a clever move -- how can environmentalists protest an environmental impact statement?


Jun. 26th, 2008 09:19 am
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This morning the NYTimes has an Op-Ed piece titled "Fight Terror with You-Tube". The author, Daniel Kimmage, says that the web was originally a good platform for Al-Qaeda's demagoguery, but that the egalitarian interactivity and social networking of "Web 2.0" has caused this strategy to backfire.

He says:
Unfortunately, the authoritarian governments of the Middle East are doing their best to hobble Web 2.0. By blocking the Internet, they are leaving the field open to Al Qaeda and its recruiters. The American military’s statistics and jihadists’ own online postings show that among the most common countries of origin for foreign fighters in Iraq are Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

He goes on to say that those same countries do the most to restrict the internet and concludes, "unfettered access to a free Internet is not merely a goal to which we should aspire on principle, but also a very practical means of countering Al Qaeda".

Does restricting the internet cause susceptibility to radical sentiments? We have correlation, not necessarily causation, but it is sugggestive. Note that Iran is NOT in the list of countries of origin for foreign fighters in Iraq. Our good friend, Saudi Arabia, is.

Meanwhile, there are some in our government who want to block internet content that they deem fosters terrorism; i.e., content put up by Al-Qaeda and others. They are afraid to allow citizens to hear and possibly be swayed, not realizing that the clear light of public examination is more apt to provoke ridicule than conversion. Kimmage is addressing governments of the Middle East, but it applies to us as well.
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I was reading a NYTimes article about how a small number of super-rich families are behind the campaign to eliminate estate taxes, and followed a link to which has lots of info on pay inequities.

The musical 1776 stated "most people would rather protect the dream of become rich than face the reality of being poor." Because of this, and because of the spectre of socialism, the public has not really come around to embrace the idea of CEO pay limits. But here's another approach.

For years I've been trying to get the sentiment started that it is *unpatriotic* - not illegal or even unfair - for any CEO to make more than the President of the United States (whose salary is currently $400,000). Surely the President of Widgets, Inc. is not more important or more worthy of his pay that the "leader of the free world"?

It's a different take on the issue, and one better-suited as a response to those who see no problem with the wage gap, that's it's a matter of earning what one is worth. I'd like to see someone take this and run.
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OK, I knew the Bush administration likes to grab power whenever it can, to "strengthen the Executive Branch". what I didn't realize was that Congress seems quite willing to give it away.

Congress has passed a law which says that Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, has the right to unilaterally ignore any law he wants to, in the name of "Homeland Security". Furthermore, Congress specified that the Federal Courts have no jurisdiction to oversee or contravene Chertoff's decisions.

Can Congress sign away their responsibilities like that? That is the question that has been submitted to the Supreme Court. I just hope they decide to take the case.

Those who voted for this bill. who are willing to abdicate the responsibilities given to them by the Constitution and allow ultimate power to be concentrated in the executive branch, don't deserve to be members of Congress. The Constitution doesn't mention a Chamber of Sycophants.
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I have been growing more irritated with politicians and pundits who dismiss the people now facing mortgage foreclosures as simply "irresponsible borrowers", implying that they are only getting what they deserve.

John McCain recently said: (quoted in the NYTimes)

“Some Americans bought homes they couldn’t afford, betting that rising prices would make it easier to refinance later at more affordable rates,” he said. Later he added that “any assistance must be temporary and must not reward people who were irresponsible at the expense of those who weren’t.”

Is it "irresponsible" to listen to the experts? Is it "irresponsible" to do what only a few years ago was presented as the patriotic thing to do? How many people remember Bush's "Ownership Society" initiative? If you don't remember, here it is (Actually, I was somewhat surprised to find this page still up, given the Administration's penchant for rewriting history.):

To quote:
"The President believes that homeownership is the cornerstone of America's vibrant communities and benefits individual families by building stability and long-term financial security. In June 2002, President Bush issued America's Homeownership Challenge to the real estate and mortgage finance industries to encourage them to join the effort to close the gap that exists between the homeownership rates of minorities and non-minorities...
President Bush's initiative to dismantle the barriers to homeownership includes: American Dream Downpayment Initiative, which provides down payment assistance to approximately 40,000 low-income families..."

So here we have the President encouraging banks and lenders to aggressively go after low-income families and make them homeowners. Perhaps the mortgage lenders, who presumably have some knowledge of economics, knew this was not necessarily a good idea - but the President is pushing it as one of his pet initiatives. And why were the borrowers low-income? Could it be that their schooling didn't extend as far as economics? Could it be that when the loan officers at the bank (making five times their income) assured them that they were eligible for these loans, the borrowers believed them? Especially with the President pushing it, and saying that the best thing the average person could do to fight terrorism was to go out, spend money,  and achieve the "American Dream"?

But no. Just remember that they should have known better. They should have known that real estate sometimes devalues. Ignore that most professional in the field forgot this. Ignore that most towns and cities -- who base their revenues on real estate values -- were caught by surprise. Ignore that all the experts were advising them that home ownership was the right thing to do.

In the end, they borrowed above their means, and for that sin they will be punished.

The professional advisors and enablers had nothing to do with it. 

Next time you are given advice by your lawyer, your doctor, or anyone who is a professional in any field, remember that is your decision to listen to them, so any bad decision is your fault, not theirs. Remember, it's all the Decider's fault.  (uh, wait a moment...)
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I think I need to check my horoscope or something. Last week was Not To Be Repeated™.

My computer crashed. Entirely my fault; I pulled out the ethernet plug and accidently snagged the power plug at the same time. Macs are usually pretty robust about things like that, but this time the hard drive got trashed. Like the computer didn't even know it had a hard drive.

Luckily I have a bootable backup drive. Unfortunately, the last time I had backed up was at the end of January. Fortunately my work is mostly low tech and this was not a crisis. Unfortunately my customer records were computerized and I didn't know who had paid and who hadn't, and I haven't yet done my taxes.. You can see the see-saw.

Then. I delivered a repair to a customer, a lovely lady, a retired doctor. She gave me a lollipop as I was leaving. I bit into it and broke a tooth. #12, if anyone is interested; that's the one just behind the upper left canine. I didn't just break a little piece. I essentially split the tooth, breaking it off below the gumline and exposing the nerve.

My dentist just retired, and I didn't really know his replacement. Now I do, and I must say I'm rather pleased with him. First, he squeezed me in, but he also went far above the call of duty and took a lot of time discussing the situation with me and talking over the options. Ultimately, I had to go to an oral surgeon for the extraction. He was much more brusque. (I know this hurts but I've got to do it). The tooth came out.

Much of the rest of the week passed in a Vicoden fog. They don't suture the gum; you can actually see the bone and you want a blood clot to form on it so it can heal and you can't disturb the clot or you risk what's called "dry socket". Ycch. It's a great way to diet; you don't want to eat anything and you take tiny sips of liquid. They recommended ice cream, so I indulged there. I'm a bit lactose intolerant, so it gives me the runs, but Vicoden gives you constipation and it seems to have all balanced out. (I'm sure everyone wants to hear these details).

My biggest problem has been keeping my tongue away from the socket. And the awful unbrushed feeling the nearby teeth have. And feeling like a poster crone if I smile widely. The gum needs to heal for 6-8 weeks before they can do anything else, so I have time to consider whether to get an implant or a bridge. Both are about equally pricey (a bridge requires capping the adjacent teeth).

Meanwhile, data recovery... Thinking the drive was trashed, I bought a program called "Data Rescue II", because the demo could see the files on the disk. But when I ran it, most of the files were trash. I got what I could, and then used Disk Utility to re-partition the drive (NOT re-initialize it). This seemed to heal the drive; the computer could now see it. But it said the drive was blank. BUT -- Data Rescue also has a "restore deleted files" function. I ran that, and found thousands of files. Yay! But unfortunately, none had a name, just numbers. They were arranged by file type. And there were many many duplicates. Apparently, autosave saves a copy, which doesn't make it into the directory but which is a file nonetheless that can be rescued. Many were file fragments. But I got back my most critical files, and think wading through the other salvaged files will have to be a new hobby for awhile... it would be nice to get back the month-and-a-half of emails I lost.

And it will be nice when my mouth stops hurting.
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I was given a carload of wood over the holidays - it had been raining, but the wood was reasonably dry. So I packed it in the car, and left it there for a few days. There was condensation on the inside of the car windows when I came back. So I toweled down the windows, finished packing the car, and drove about five hours to get home.

It was late when I arrived. I took my stuff in, left the wood in the car, and went to bed.

This morning I discovered the windows were covered with a very thick layer of frost -- inside. So much frost that the scraper only took off a thin layer. Besides, scrapers are not designed to work on a concave surface.

The soft surfaces -- the roof, sunshades, etc -- had frost flowers growing. (look closely)

The wood's drying pretty well, though. Maybe that's why so many people leave an abandoned car in the back yard here -- it makes a good drying kiln.... Eureka!
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Wonderful Christmas and New Year's -- saw old friends, met new ones, and discovered that my godson has a really good eye for sculpture. Weather was mild in NYC; even going out to watch the fireworks only required a fleece sweater and hat.

My housemate had warned me that we had had a snowstorm at home. I came home to this:

Home sweet home!
(This is my apple tree).
PS - it's 1 degree Fahrenheit today.
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I don't like streetlights.
I live in a semi-rural area, and the stars are glorious. The fireflies dance in the summer air over my meadow, and at night I can hear fox kits playing in the brush. In the winter, the landscape glows with starlight, and moonlight makes eerily garish splashes of light and shadow on the snow.
Bright streetlights chase all this away.

Streetlights make me feel exposed and vulnerable.
I'm walking along the road, and enter a pool of light that ruins my night vision. Anyone can see me, but I can't see outside that small light circle. I can only hope no surprises await me as I continue on my way. Once I am in the dark and my eyes adjust again, I can relax.

Streetlighting is expensive.
I once went to Town Meeting to present the Ambulance Corps budget, which was about $40,000. We spent half an hour nickle-and-diming it -- do you _really_ need a new defibrillator? Two hundred dollars a year is too much for gauze - you need to charge the patients so this is not a budget item. Finally they approved it. Next item on the agenda was street lighting: $40,000 approved with no discussion. This for a small NH town, more than 15 years ago. I hate to think what it costs today.

Excessive light at night is a carcinogen.
Say what?
There has been mounting evidence for years that disrupting circadian rhythms causes a plethora of health problems. Many links can be found at

But now the WHO has weighed in, and the American Cancer Society will probably follow suit.
"Next month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization, will add overnight shift work as a probable carcinogen. The American Cancer Society says it will likely follow. Up to now, the U.S. organization has considered the work-cancer link to be "uncertain, controversial or unproven." -- AP (
So far, the big guns are only admitting correlation, not causation. And only with night shift work, not with artificial lighting itself. They are apparently admitting that lighting is the likely cause, though. And using red light (other papers say amber) causes less of a correlation.

Oh yes -- I should also mention that the studies of the supposed security benefits of lighting all deal with urban areas. It doesn't transfer to a rural setting. In rural areas, providing light just lets the thieves see what they are doing. And annoys the residents, who live out here because they want to see the stars.


Aug. 24th, 2007 05:13 pm
viverra: (Default)
this link is dedicated to cdozo:
viverra: (Default)
Just got back from Grand Manan Canada, where we performed the "Grand Design", a multimedia musical storytelling (say that 10x fast) of a shipwreck in 1741. The story has all the elements of a soap opera -- desperate immigrants, a dastardly captain, a minister watching in despair as his flock dies of starvation, a young woman whose faith brings her through, a practical young mother who focuses on survival, and lastly, the courageous Passamaquoddy who tell the story of their people and rescue the last survivors.

It's all true, and it happened on the island of Grand Manan. Descendents of the survivors live along the coast of Maine.

When we did the show in Damariscotta, the kids were taken aback when 4 generations of descendents showed up on opening night. They realized that this wasn't just a play, it was the story of real people.

In Grand Manan, the players were even more affected. They knew what it would be like to overwinter on the island, with only dulse and mussels to eat. The 17-year old girl who played the young mother wept as she told of the death of her husband. The woman who read the Passamaquoddy legend was already knew their story, but now it was being told to everyone, not as some bit of quaint anthropology, but as part of a noble heritage and history.

It was wonderful. There is no community theatre on the island, so this production was unusual. That the community could pull something like this together so quickly -- most didn't see the script until the evening before the performance, and we only had one full rehersal -- was simply amazing. We had more than 10% of the island population there.

More than just showing how they could do something like this, the production pointed out to the kids that their island - their history - was something that people off-island were interested in and valued.
viverra: (Default)
If anyone is considering getting a tattoo using oriental characters, this is a good site to check out.
The moral is, don't just check words in a dictionary -- run the entire phrase by a couple of native speakers for possible nuances and double meanings.

Ferret joy!

Jul. 3rd, 2007 01:00 pm
viverra: (Default)
Change of pace -- a long time ago I posted about an autistic boy and his pet ferret. Well, the boy is nearly grown up now, and his mom posted a video to you-tube of him and his ferrets.
The sheer joy they take in dashing about just makes me laugh.


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