Dr. Lester M. Crawford, the former commissioner of food and drugs, is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury over accusations of financial improprieties and false statements to Congress, his lawyer said Friday.
Before Dr. Crawford’s confirmation, the secretary of health and human services, Michael O. Leavitt, promised that the F.D.A. would act on the Plan B application by September 2005, a promise that led two Democratic senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington, to relent in their efforts to delay the nomination. But after he was confirmed, Dr. Crawford announced an indefinite delay that has remained in effect.
Harman, one of the few House members to receive briefings on the NSA program, said she believes in the program’s approach but argued unsuccessfully on the floor Wednesday for a measure requiring greater congressional review.
“I do not support violating the law or the Constitution,” she said. “Enhanced security without respect for law gives away the very values we are fighting to defend, and I believe that the program . . . can and must fully comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and with our Constitution.”
In case you’re interested, Randy “Duke” Cunningham is in the news again as the FBI investigates how weird his bribery involvement got:
Wade is cooperating with investigators as part of his plea agreement in February. He has told them that Brent Wilkes, a San Diego defense contractor who has been identified as a co-conspirator, secured prostitutes, limousines and suites at two Washington hotels for Cunningham, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
Republican government. It’s all just wacky fun!!!
I’ve been working to make some changes to this weblog, and I thought I would ask my readers (that’s you) a couple of quick questions. Feel free to ignore them.
I can’t say that I will act on reader suggestions, but if you mention something that I haven’t thought of, it may help me to not overlook something. If you don’t want to post a comment, contact me via my contact information.
Five Congress members were willingly arrested and led away from the Sudanese Embassy in plastic handcuffs Friday in protest of the Sudanese government’s role in atrocities in the Darfur region.[…]
The protesters called on the Sudanese government to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur and allow humanitarian relief organizations full access to victims.The three-year-old conflict between rebels and government-backed militias has left at least 180,000 people dead, mostly from war-related hunger and disease, and some 2 million homeless.
Hat tip to Julie!
The atrocities in Darfur have been a low priority for the US government while we’ve been distracted by our Iraq adventure. It’s good to see members of congress trying to get some attention paid to the issue, and I’m especially proud that our own Jim McGovern is up there adding his voice to the protestors and the other four Democratic congress members who were involved.
Millions of vulnerable people in the western Sudanese region of Darfur and eastern Sudan will receive half-rations of food beginning on Monday, due to a significant shortfall in funding, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said.
So, things are about to get harder for these already victimized Sudanese.
Weight is at 175. I’m looking for a new way to host my calorie and weight spreadsheet online. I ran out of room at NumSum.
Yep. That’s all this post is about.
Favorite Roger the Alien quotes:
All this junk food talk… it’s torture.
We drink a lot of milk in the Dr. Momentum household. A gallon every couple of days, almost. For the health conscious in the audience, let me stress that this is nonfat milk. Yeah, I know. Maggie weaned me off 1% shortly after we got married.
Anyhow, I bought some Kellogg’s cereal the other day (we eat a lot of that as well) and was granted the following coupon via the checkout-coupon-printer at Stop & Shop:
Free milk? That’s great! The only problem is that I am a Massachusetts resident.
Why is that a problem?
Because redeeming coupons for milk is against the law in Massachusetts. This isn’t the first time we’ve had useless milk coupons before. Once, Maggie complained to Hood about a bad gallon of milk, and they gave us a coupon for a free gallon to replace the bad one. When nobody would take th coupon we learned about the law.
But this is the first time I’ve has Stop&Shop issue such a coupon in their store — one that we couldn’t redeem there!
I was a bit incredulous. I figured “maybe if they are issuing the coupon, it’s OK for them to take it.” So Maggie called the store.
Maggie: Hi. My husband has a coupon for free milk from your store. Will your store accept it?
Employee: I don’t see why not.
Maggie: How about because it’s illegal in Massachusetts?Employee: Um, let me check. [Pause] Yeah, we can’t accept that coupon.
Sure, the irony is obvious. They don’t accept their own coupon. But the irony is not what annoys me. Technically, if you read all the fine print, it does say “void where prohibited by law.” It’s up to you to know the law.
What annoys me is the note on the coupon from Kellogg’s telling you that if you buy more cereal, you can get even more of these useless coupons! So, if you didn’t know about the law, and you hadn’t had a chance to try to redeem the coupon, you might go back to Stop&Shop and buy 6 boxes of various cereal in pursuit of what could be $13.47 in free milk (the coupon is supposed to be redeemable for up to $4.49 per gallon). That’s just plain cheesy. A sloppy mistake, but it might well sell a few extra boxes of cereal.
In truth, we eat so much Kellogg’s cereal that 6 boxes of Mini Wheats is a drop in the bucket. But you’re basically being cheated out of $10+ if you fall for this.
Here is the link to the text of the Massachusetts general law regarding milk control:
CHAPTER 94A. MILK CONTROL
CERTAIN TRANSACTIONS PROHIBITED
Chapter 94A: Section 14. Purchase, sale or distribution of milk below price fixed or below cost; rebates[…](d) No person shall sell within the commonwealth any milk, or render any service in connection with the sale or distribution of milk, at a price less than the cost of such milk or service, including, in the case of milk sold, the original purchase price thereof, and in every instance all regular direct or indirect elements of cost as defined in section one; and no milk dealer shall evade this prohibition by the use of any method or device, whether by discount or rebate, by barter, by exchange, by free service, by distribution of free milk, […]
My guess is that the reason behind this law has to do with protecting local dairy farms. It prevents dumping cheap milk on the market and undercutting other dairies. Maybe it protects small dairies. But a coupon that can be used on any dairy’s milk should probably be exempted, because it does not favor one dairy over another. I think the law was just written too broadly.
WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Bush’s approval rating rose unexpectedly today after he addressed the nation on energy policy and the high price of gasoline.
This weeks poll shows 7 Americans approving of Bush’s job performance, up from only 5 Americans last week. Pollsters are not certain, but the bump in his numbers may be attributable to recent adjustments in the polling methodology which now includes more registered Republicans in the pool. Also, those two extra people were his parents.
The money is a big source of the troop’s finances. Some of it is used by the girls to pay for whatever fun activities the girls plan for themselves. Earning the money that you use to later enjoy some shared goal is a great lesson. But being a Girl Scout isn’t all about fun. The girls choose their own activities, but some of the activities they choose to do are service activities.
Last weekend, M and K’s troop (Maggie is a leader of the troop) renovated a garden dedicated to a fellow local scout who died of cancer. Chelsea’s garden is at North Elementary School here in town.
I hope that last post did not sound like bragging. I didn’t defeat the idiot stick through sheer genius, it’s just that my father always had me doing puzzles and you start to learn how many types of puzzles work. You learn the tricks of the puzzle world. People come up with new tricks, but the old ones are still there for you to draw from when you see new forms of the same old puzzles. So it was experience.
In any case, here’s a story about a deficit of mine. The game of Set.
Apparently, Set is not my strong suit. If you want to win at Set, play against me.
After Maggie retired for the evening on Saturday, Julie and I decided to play Set against each other. She soundly defeated me. By a lot. I “won one round” of set, but winning a round doesn’t count because the true rules simply add all the scores from each round together to determine the final score. And in the final score, Julie kicked my ass because she won every other round by a wide margin.
It’s true, I haven’t played much Set. The kids have played against Maggie in the past. When we first got the game I played against Maggie a little bit, but I was so bad at it that I don’t think I enjoyed it. But Julie hasn’t been playing long either.
So, to get some practice, I started playing against my daughters. M mainly likes to watch from the couch and call out “Set!” if she sees a set, sort of half-involved. But K is right there playing with me.
K beats me easily, at almost the same margin Julie did. I need practice, or my brain is just plain deficient at it, similar to why I have problems with those stupid CAPTCHAs that stop spam on certain websites.
However, I still enjoy the game, even though I suck. My ego can take the beating. I still have my Pictionary crown!
A short tale I’ve been wanting to tell.
Back when I worked at Raytheon, right out of college, I shared a huge bank of cubicles with the entire lab of engineers who were working on the same large project to which I was assigned.
I shared that area with a lot of great people, but also one or two really annoying ones. There was one really annoying, smug little fellow who was also just out of college and had the general attitude that he was too good for everything and everyone. He wouldn’t or couldn’t stop talking about his Eagle Talon. That’s how I know to this day that the car has all-wheel drive. I still don’t care, but I can’t forget it. His name is long forgotten, but the car I remember. Since I can’t remember his name, let me call him “Vinny.” Wait - that might have been his name. Let’s go for “JL” because I think John Leguizamo would be able to play him perfectly if they ever made a movie about him. Which they would not.
One day JL came into the cube farm with an even more simpering expression than usual. And he had something he was bursting to show people.
He called it an “idiot stick” and the idea is both clever and stupid, and sums up his personality nicely. This story I’m telling you isn’t the most interesting story in the world, but what makes it an almost perfect story is that when I tell you about this “idiot stick” and how the thing works, you will immediately understand what sort of person JL was at that time. Having not seen him in 15 years, I’m hoping he’s improved.
JL’s “Idiot Stick” was a puzzle. He’d approach you and ask you if you liked puzzles (or he’d present some other sort of opening that would allow him to get close enough to you and agree to participate). I heard that he was going around the office subjecting people to his idiot stick, and it was pissing them off. And I like puzzles. So I made my way over to his cube.
He was in there telling his cube mates about how he and his dad had invented this thing, nobody had ever seen it before and were they were planning to sell it and make a ton of money. Nowadays he would have a website or be selling it through eBay. In those days, I don’t know how you marketed such a thing.
“I hear you’ve got an interesting puzzle.” I called into the cube. He had one of the larger group cubes that was shared with a few other people. It was somewhat central so it tended to attract a small social gathering.
“Yeah. Do you want to see it? It’s called the ‘Idiot Stick.’” he said.
“Ok, it involves your shirt.”
He approached me and I allowed him to fiddle with one of the buttonholes on the front of my shirt. While he did this he used one hand to keep me from seeing exactly what he was doing. “There” he said when he was done.
I looked down and saw that he had attached some sort of thing to my shirt. He began to explain the predicament I was in. This idiot stick was now attached to my shirt and until I figured out how to un-attach it, I was going to look like an idiot. As I walked around the office, people would be able to see that I hadn’t yet solved the puzzle. (Or he would remove it at some point and not tell the solution)
Sadly (for JL) while I am not a genius, I am also not an idiot. And as an avid puzzle-solver, I have come into contact with many types of puzzles. The one he had attached to my shirt was, indeed, somewhat challenging and required some creative thinking to remove, similar to some of the creative thinking required to solve tavern puzzles where you have to pass a large object through smaller hole without damaging anything. I had prior practice thinking laterally, and with some very similar tavern puzzles. I knew the principle behind the trick. Before he was even done explaining that I was going to look stupid for half the day, I had removed the stick. I handed it back to him.
At the time of removal, the victim is supposed to want to assuage his embarrassment by subjecting other people to the same humiliation. I didn’t share the sentiment. Not that I don’t like to pass on a good puzzle, or don’t like to fool people. It wasn’t the puzzle that bugged me. It was the “idiot” appellation and the fact that it turns something that ought to be fun into a form of bullying.
“Interesting.” I said. “That is a clever trick.” Seeing his smug smile turn into a surprised look made it fun again. Full circle!
I walked out and told my friends how the trick worked (if they wanted to know). I didn’t want them to look silly.
I can’t remember exactly what the stick looked like, though I remember the general principle behind how to install and remove the stick. Once you know that, this type of trick no longer fools you. It involves shifting your focus from the stick to your shirt. It truly looks impossible, like a tavern puzzle.
I wonder if the stick ever caught on. I wonder if there is a market out there for trying to make your co-workers look like idiots all day long. How to win friends and influence people.
Congrats to Keri for what sounded like a successful anti-LNG rally with Senator Kerry.
The turnout sounded good for a rainy Monday afternoon. Your humble slacker author had to listen to it on the radio as “core office hours” are a hot topic around here lately.
It’s great to have John Kerry’s support. He gave a clear statement from Kerry that he’s against it, and against the policies that allowed this siting. Impressively, he did it right in front of Weaver’s Cove. Predictable anti-Kerry voices set up straw expectations, as if only one specific magical announcement is acceptable. They followed the rally with whining that he didn’t reveal some new mystery initiative that would have gotten national TV. But we just got a US Senator to stand on Weaver’s Cove LNG’s property and denounce the project. That’s undeniably big.
But rather than gripe about how local Republican mouthpieces use Kerry’s support as an opportunity to bash Kerry, I’ll say that things are looking up in the fight against LNG. I think the fight is far from won, but the opponents have built momentum. With our delegation doing things like stopping Republican attempts to take the old Brightman Street Bridge down, we’re finally seeing the kind of support we need.
I took Friday off (actually, it was Monday’s holiday, which I worked, shifted to Friday) and we spent the day in Boston at the Museum of Science, which is always a big hit with the kids. And always leaves us exhausted.
We weren’t sure what Friday in vacation would be like at BMOS, and the answer is: busier than I’ve ever seen it before.
Wall to wall people. We could only get so much done, so we are planning to return in the summer.
The Star Wars exhibit was fun. I think I spent the most time scrutinizing the Millennium Falcon model, comparing it to the models we used to make as kids. The way they aged and dirtied-down the model was very similar to the stuff we did to our models. That’s not too much of a surprise, since we learned to do that stuff by reading about what the ILM artists did.
There were robotics “hands on” stations which go by too quickly for the kids to really learn anything, but I suppose it whets their appetite to learn. I plan to have the kids participate in an actual robotics project over the summer. Maybe an introduction to electronics followed by an actual robot. In the last 6 months I’ve bought a number of robot design books, so we have all the necessary info, including small project plans already made. And we can experiment with the LEGO Robotics system.
I especially got a kick out of a T-shirt seen while we were waiting in line for the Star Wars exhibit.
Afterward, we got caught in rush hour traffic. That’s what you get when you try to leave Boston at 5:30PM. Have to plan better next time.
We’d wanted to get to the market and buy ingredients to cook dinner, but the level of hunger was too high with the extra delay of traffic. BMOS is fun, but add on crowds and lack of proper eating and I end up with a horrible headache. So we stopped in Randolph to get some food at Outback Steakhouse. Their 9 ounce steak dinner is very reasonable in price and surprisingly decent.
On the way home from Randolph, we were reinvigorated by dinner enough to stop off at IKEA. Note to anyone listening: IKEA on a Friday night after dinner is pretty much dead. So if you don’t like crowds and don’t tend to do anything important on Friday nights, that’d be the time to go. Sad commentary on our lives, or good advice? You decide.
IKEA is like Willy Wonka but for adults. I swear.
OK. Today’s fun is about to begin. I have to exercise (see under long-neglected activities) and then (is anyone surprised?) work. At least it’s a working lunch. Then errands, then back here to meet up with Julie. And maybe, just maybe, relaxation.
Some have said that Bush will never get rid of Rumsfeld because it would be like firing himself.
It seems to me to make a lot more sense to the gut-feeling part of me that the reason Bush has to keep Rumsfeld is that he’s keeping his options open on attacking Iran. I think Bush would be hard pressed to find someone else to go along with his wacky schemes. Rumsfeld’s easy. He likes to experiment with the military.
Does that make you nervous?
Warning of the day: Don’t try to rhyme anything with “Columbia.”
Back from Texas. We flew in yesterday and I think I may have caught a cold on one of the planes. My head is very thick-feeling and I’m just generally out of it.
Other than that, it was a good trip. I am told that on Monday it hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Dallas. We were inside an office building for the entire day, so I only experienced the heat in the morning and evening. It was humid and warm.
My duffel had endured the heat of the day in the trunk of a car. When I opened the bag at the hotel on Monday night, a puff of hot air escaped, as if my clothing were being stored in a toaster oven.
But getting to the hotel was a bit of an adventure. We caught a cab from the center of Dallas, bound for “Comfort Suites.” When the cab stopped we got out, paid the cabbie and ambled up to the reception desk. A large, affable-looking man behind the desk was speaking to a coworker, but turned toward us when we showed up.
“Hi! You look like you think you have a reservation here.”
I thought this was just his odd way of greeting guests. So we simply began to get our identification out so he could pull up our rooms.
He then said. “I said that because you came in a taxi. And we’re all filled up.”
I was thrown a bit because I wasn’t sure I even understood what he was trying to say. We were exhausted from a long day, and were not up to any tough mental challenges. But it started to look like he was actually trying to tell us something, not that he was being goofy or jocular.
I looked at SH, and he looked at me, and light dawned, and he said “Oh.” and I said the obvious “We’re in the wrong place.”
The hotel receptionist explained that the cab drivers always mistake his hotel for “Comfort Suites” for some reason. And the particular cab company we had used was especially notorious. The place we should be was a quarter mile further down the road. In our exhausted state we wondered whether we could carry our bags that far. We probably could. We definitely could under normal circumstances. But these were clearly unusual.
“Oh, he’s still out there, you’re lucky. You should try to catch him!” the receptionist said. SH did so.
The cab driver was apologetic and took us to the correct place (no attempt to charge us for his mistake).
We had to get up at 4:30 AM to catch the early flight back to Providence. This was not as difficult as I expected. I woke up 5 minutes before my wake up call and jumped out of bed frantically thinking I had missed the call. Ah, the disorientation of waking up.
Now I get to be groggy and disoriented at home. Good to be back.
So, I’m in Texas. (And, obviously, the hotel has wifi.)
The trip was without complication. SH picked me up from the house and we drove out to T.F. Green. There was still a lot to plan and discuss, so we did some of that at the gate and on the planes.
The first leg of the trip was in First Class. We’d been upgraded. First class means more leg room and in-flight booze. SH and I both ordered Jack and Cokes (seemed like the thing to do). The flight attendant brought cans of Coke and 3 little bottles of Jack Daniels for each of us. I made SH take a picture because it was a bizarre sight — as if we were ready to host a party for the whole of First class. I stashed two of my bottles. Drinking on planes is OK in moderation, but I’d rather have 2 feet on the ground when I’m tossing back cocktails.
For the second leg we were back in coach. Not too bad, because we were in the exit aisle. Better for SH than for myself. We boarded fairly early, and we were sitting in the aisle seats — one of us on either side. Stephen had two skinny girls sit next to him, which is great for keeping your own personal space. Two huge guys sat on my side of the row.
I don’t hog the armrest. In fact, I tend to just give up the armrest and stick my arm down next to the arm rest so that I have a buffer. The fellow next to me was so broad that he just ate up that space with his arms. Oh well. I can’t complain too much — he was at least polite about it. So, a decent set of flights.
We took a taxi to the hotel, and it was pretty late when we got in, but we wanted to grab a bite to eat and maybe a beer. And then talk about tomorrow’s presentation. The woman behind the desk was not that helpful at first in finding us a place to eat, and SH was giving her a hard time about how there weren’t any open restaurants. But it was just before 10PM on Easter Sunday. We probably ought not to have expected much.
The woman at the desk rose to the occasion and found Chinese food for us. Off to our rooms to meet back up for Chinese and talk about the day that was to come. No beer, however, as this area is a dry area.
Stash of Jack Daniels to the rescue.
We didn’t last long though. I’m exhausted and ready to sleep. So here I go. Seeing Texas from the inside of a hotel room and the inside of my eyelids.
M and K were enjoying their egg hunt this morning in the great room when M stumbled upon the TV controller which has been missing for a number of months (at least since before Christmas.)
It was under a cushion. I am perplexed, because both Maggie and I had removed all the couch cushions in the room and checked the furniture. It’s a miracle!
And now I know how to get kids to look for missing stuff. Set up an egg hunt. Those looking for a really thorough search will hide n eggs and tell the kids to look for n+1 eggs. (When they find the lost item, give them that last egg)
My daughters have dubbed the day “Bunnyween!” We don’t really celebrate Easter, but have a happy one if you do. Bunnyween is a gateway to a new year. The new year of spring-summer-fall.
A trip to Texas is scheduled for us this evening, so that’s what I’ll be doing for the second half of my day. For the first half I’ll be working to prepare for the trip. Pretty much what I’ve been doing for weeks. I have to be honest, either this pace ends soon or I do. Put tersely. Some people like to always be pressed for time, to be trying to do big things with not enough resources. I don’t mind it, for a time. But when there are weeks, months and even years of this sort of activity in a row, you have to wonder whether there ought to be more to life. When you work smart, you can have bursts of working hard and do amazing things. When you just work hard all the time, you can’t have bursts of working smart because you’re working too hard. And all that this accomplishes is that you can boast to other people about how hard you’re working and how busy you are. But they’re not really impressed, I don’t think. They probably just think you’re a poor planner.
I don’t want to look busy all the time. It’s not conducive to reflection. When I’m not reflecting, the fun part of my brain goes to sleep. When I’m busy the opportunity to come up with great ideas seems to evaporate.
We started in with the frenetic pace sometime last March, I think, after JK spoke to me about all the challenges that were ahead. And we didn’t know the half of them. And just like that, the summer disappeared. As Manny used to say “how many summers do you have left?” We’d sit on the shore next to the Waverunner, watching people put their boats in the water.
Sometimes it was entertainment enough to just watch who turned out at the boat ramp. The guy with the cigarettes and the sneakers who didn’t want to get his sneakers wet. He tried to throw them to his pals on board, who probably already had a couple of beers in them judging by the way they were loading the cooler. The shoes and the smokes sailed in a perfect arc over the stern of the motorboat and splashed into the shallow water on the ramp.
The gals who looked made up as if they were spending the day on a fancy shopping trip. No hats to protect from the sun, not a stitch of practical clothing. At least the hair was right. Enough hair spray that the bangs stood up straight in the front, it would likely stay put at motorboat speeds.
You could sit there all day and watch people putting in. The kayakers. The motor boats. The jet skis. Every so often, the people who were in some sort of jam and had some grand plan to get out of it — which never worked. Of course, we had been in similar situations. Usually our plans were at least creative when they were completely daft. Nothing is worse than a bad run-of-the-mill plan.
There’s a real summer. Dodging inconsequential obligations to disappear from the world. The opportunity to get wet, and perhaps require stitches. Situations where you tell your companion to go full throttle, and then scaring yourself senseless because you realize he’s going to do it, and you didn’t consider whether you could actually hold on to the inner tube.
Well, it’s one sort of summer anyhow. Another sort is spent out with the kids, discovering amazing scenic places that were always there right under your nose. Hunting for hidden things on wooded walks. Climbing rocks and making your own walking stick. Fridays off and going to every museum you could; having a summer curriculum for the kids. As recent as two summers ago there was a summer like that. Not dodging responsibility, just giving your responsibility to life its proper respect.
Last summer had its bright points; old and new friends. A baseball game. But. Well. Sometimes I can still feel the hot sauce in my tummy. Enough said about last summer.
How many summers left? I guess nobody knows. But when summer comes around, you ought to “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” - Henry David Thoreau.
But on this Bunnyween, I’m off to the Lone Star State. Dallas, to be precise. I’ll be back in a little over a day. Barely time to smell the air. This business travel thing is really weird. Plane to hotel to all-day-meeting to hotel to plane. A palindrome of fun! But this is the culmination of a ton of work. We can only hope it’s fruitful.
A wise person once told me, “overtime is always followed by down time.” I’m ready to climb down from a year of constant “critical time.” Maybe I need to start scheduling these things! Friday we’re going to the Boston Museum of Science. That’s a good start. Time to grab the budding season and wrestle it to the ground!
Two more retired U.S. generals called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign on Thursday, claiming the chief architect of the Iraq operation ignored years of Pentagon planning for a U.S. occupation and should be held accountable for the chaos there.
As the high-ranking officers accused Rumsfeld of arrogance and ignoring his field commanders, the White House was forced to defend a man who has been a lightning rod for criticism over a war that has helped drive President George W. Bush’s public approval ratings to new lows.
Funny, but when the White House press office got hold of the story, it republished it thusly:
Two more retired U.S. generals joined into the recent public discussion about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday, exercising in their right to free speech which president Bush graciously allows.
The high-ranking officers strew candy and flowers before Rumsfeld, praising him as a liberator. The White House smiled broadly, with only a hint of a smirk and added “he’s doing a heckuva job.”
Preparing for the trip to Texas on Sunday hasn’t left much time for surfing.
[BONUS: Firefox Commercial. Yeah, that’s pretty much how I view Internet Explorer.]
Bush voters in 2000 put a drunken chimp in charge of a band of congressional money addicts.
I know that sounds harsh, but I can’t think of any other way to describe the mess that our Republican-controlled government has made of this country’s finances. I’m sure that many fiscally reasonable people are shocked at the current state of affairs, and I hate to kick people when they’re down. So can we maybe get rid of these people as soon as possible?
David Broder writes “Red Ink Run Amok” in today’s WaPo about how the horrible mess has been kept under wraps as much as possible.
Cooper said the total press run [of the official Financial Report of the United States Government] was 1,000 copies, and they have become such rarities that he suggested I could probably take the one he procured for me and put it up for auction on eBay.
You might think that the subject matter is as sensitive as the National Intelligence Estimate that President Bush declassified in order to discredit Joe Wilson.
And it is. The cover letter in the report from Treasury Secretary John Snow contains the bad news. Whereas the budget deficit for fiscal 2005 was officially given as $319 billion, “the government’s accrual-based net operating cost . . . was $760 billion in 2005.” […]David Walker, the head of the Government Accountability Office, official bookkeeper for Congress, said at a briefing last week that the $760 billion accrual deficit “amounts to $156,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in America. For a family, it’s like having a $750,000 mortgage — and no house.”
Congress has come to the conclusion that it is easier to ignore the problem than deal with it. They are afraid, like deer in the headlights, of doing anything about the stupid Bush tax cuts — tax cuts that the president intends to make permanent. But government spending is still rising. Like a college student with his first credit card at a bar that doesn’t accept cash, the Congress is getting drunk on borrowed money.
When the country put Republicans in charge of Congress, they seated a bunch of people who only knew how to kowtow to a fiscally irresponsible administration. The Democrats don’t have any political power to do anything about it, and the Republicans don’t have the testicular fortitude to do anything but run off to another two week vacation. They’re a national coalition of deadbeat dads who have mortgaged the futures of their children and thrown the bills in the fire as they make plans for spring break.
That’s not harsh, it’s just a metaphor.
I have so much I want to blog lately, and no time in which to blog it in. Work is, literally, eating my life. I have to find a balance soon! Sincere apologies to you, my loyal readers. All, what, 5 of you? I am keeping track and will post the stuff in time. Right now, two stories about a local problem, but possible interest to people beyond the SouthCoast. The second story is going to grind your gears if you care at all about Massachusetts and who from other states should be messing with what goes on here.
Keri announced on her show on Monday that John Kerry is going to come to Fall River on April 24th for a rally against the Weavers Cove LNG facility. Reportedly, they’re going to close the street down. Kerry will first visit the Iwo Jima replica memorial in Bicentennial Park, and then it’s on to Weavers Cove. (On the right is a picture I took of that replica a few months ago while looking for a micro geocache in the area. I didn’t find it, dammit!)
The rally is supposed to be at 11:30, and it’s on a Monday. I don’t know if I can swing it with work, but it should really send a message that people are serious about not wanting to site this thing in Fall River. If you oppose LNG in this residential area, and you’re available at that time, try to be there!
Keri - if you read this, is there an address where the rally is going to be? Is it 1 New Street just off North Main?
Another story from the tireless Keri:
Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe tried to place language into a heating assistance bill that would have reversed part of a federal transportation bill preserving [Brightman Street] bridge.
Let me clarify. Our representatives and senators fought to keep the old bridge because the feds were unresponsive in stopping the siting of this LNG terminal. The old bridge is an obstacle to the plan, though Weavers Cove LNG claims they can work around it. The Coast Guard is concerned that their plan is not workable in its current state, because the bridge and the shape of the river present a number of challenges to LNG tankers.
Suddenly, an OK Republican introduces funding to pay for having the bridge torn down. Why would a senator from across the country care about a bridge in Fall River? These LNG people have friends in lots of places and strings they can pull. My guess is, these friends are well-compensated.
Who is this Senator Jim Inhofe? Fun Facts!
If I had more time, I’d dig deeper. But you get the idea.
Why is this guy dipping his filthy toes into the Taunton River?
And, to the people who have said that the Brightman St. Bridge is not an obstacle to the project: apparently someone disagrees with that sentiment enough to call in some high level favors.
This is despicable. Luckily, Jim Inhofe’s attempt at helping big energy site a dangerous facility in a residential area far from his constituency was given the smackdown by Kennedy and Kerry. But this ought to give you an idea of what the SouthCoast has been up against here.
(In other LNG news: State Sen. Joan Menard, D-Fall River, was named co-chairwoman of the recently formed liquefied natural gas commission at the group’s first meeting in Boston Tuesday. Fall River state Rep. Robert Correia was chosen as the commission’s president.)
Here’s this week’s song snippet.
but while I am lying here
trying to fight the tears
I’ll prove to the crowd that I come out stronger
though I think I might lie here a little longer
1) Where’s it from?
2) What’s your one-word impression? (Feel free to elaborate)
An executive for Walt Disney’s (Research) ABC network said Monday that starting next month, ABC will offer online streams of some of its most popular television shows, including “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” for free the day after they first air on broadcast TV.
I don’t see details about the format. So I’m suspicious that it might not be iPod-compatible. I’m hoping it’s not just streaming video on your computer, because some of those formats are lousy and choppy, while the one that Apple uses for the iTunes store is pretty decent.
In any case, decent for people who like TV but aren’t good at catching their shows when they air now have a choice other than TiVo.
There are rules against an administration using the CIA to produce propaganda against the American people.
By cherry-picking evidence and leaking certain bits of intelligence to the press, Bush came up with a really effective way to end-run around the anti-propaganda rules.
In other words, it’s legalized propaganda. And making it legal makes it A-OK, right?
Bringing honor and morals back to the White House.
K is learning to play the cello. Because of hard work on her part, she has made it into “Select Strings” group, which are the top students in string instruments at her grade level. This amazes me, because she’s doing both piano, cello and has a pretty decent amount of 5th grade homework which must get done. Maggie is run ragged making sure their homework gets done and taking them to piano and cello and skating and other less fun appointments.
In an case, K has been able to keep this up for now, and even though she doesn’t like to practice, she does work on her cello. Nobody has told us she has any special predisposition to cello, although she has her own unique way of thinking about it (as she has about everything.) At the Christmas time select strings concert, she was chosen to solo “Jingle Bells” backwards because, for some reason, it’s not much more difficult to her brain, processing it backwards vs. forwards.
Tuesday night we have another select strings concert at 7PM in the “Inn” at Clifton, on Wilbur ave in Somerset. It’s an assisted living facility, and the folks there are always an appreciative audience for the kids. But the room will probably be 50% proud parents.
I hope she continues to enjoy the cello, even as her studies become more taxing. Middle school, we’ve been told, comes with an increased level of homework!
This weekend I saw that the new “Coke Blak” had hit the store shelves at the local market. It’s pricey and you can only get it 4 8oz. bottles at a time, but we had Mike and Julie coming over so I figured people would get a kick out of trying it.
The bottle is sleek and stylish. However, I would feel a little weird drinking something in public out of a bottle that screams “DESIGNED TO BE SEXY!” so loudly. I poured mine into a glass.
It is easy to sum up the flavor of Coke BlaK. It’s coffee-flavored C2. It tastes like Coke Classic with a shot of coffee syrup, but with half the calories. It’s pretty sweet. Lightly carbonated. According to the company, it’s got less caffeine than actual coffee, and about twice as much as a Coke Classic.
If I understand correctly from reading other reviews, this is not the same beverage that has been marketed in France. The French version is, apparently, a lot less sweet and a lot more coffee. That would have been a much more radical departure from Coke than this was.
This one still tastes quite a bit like Coke. That surprised me a little. And now I wonder what a Coke Zero + a shot of Autocrat tastes like. For us SouthCoasters (and Rhode Islanders) coffee syrup is never very far away. I expect that you can make a much less expensive version of Coke BlaK in your own kitchen.
If I have time, I will work out a copycat recipe for y’all. [Done! See below.]
The response from the panel of four taste testers was positive. We seemed to generally agree that we liked the stuff but wouldn’t pay a high price for it. I will let the individuals involved give their own impressions in the comments.
I liked it, too, but I don’t drink a lot of sugared beverages when I’m trying to watch calories. It’s easy for me to cut them out. However, under normal circumstances I would enjoy this stuff if it were about the price of Coke. (Sorry - I don’t remember what I paid for the 4-pak. I will check that and update this entry later). Thumbs slightly up on the beverage, thumbs slightly down on the price. And, I’d like to try the French version.
In semi-related news, there is a bit of nervousness around the globe regarding benzene levels in soft drinks.
Coca-Cola BlaK copycat recipe (first pass)
Stir the soda a little bit to get rid of some of the carbonation
I chose the Iced Cappuccino mix because it is more coffe-ish and less syrup-ish (i.e. less sugar) than the regular syrup used to make coffee milk. Also, it has more caffeine in it than the regular Eclipse and Autocrat (which are made by the same company anyway).
I used the calories as a rough guide to estimate the amount of mix which might be needed. My recipe comes out to about 50 calories.
I failed to mention when I first posted this that none of us really like the idea of the Coca-Cola company making up new letter for our alphabet. BlãK looks a lot like it should be pronounced “blah-k” at first glance (thus the joke about “Coke blah” that we made all night, and the references to Count Blah for those who remember “Greg the Bunny.” The word would, ostensibly, refer to the color of the stuff, in which case you’d be inclined to pronounce it “black.” In France, instead of the Coca-Cola squiggle over the “a” they used a bar, which implies the English pronunciation of “blake” with a hard “a” sound. In Portuguese, that diacritical over the “a” calls for a slightly nasal version of the vowel, but I can’t remember if that would be a nasal “blah-k” or a nasal “black” or something in between. It’s been a while since college Portuguese.
Maybe they just want us to wonder.
In any case, I think the name is a weird attempt to be edgy. First and last letter capitalized and a made up letter in the middle. That’s hot. (not) But I have to say, I’m liking my imitation Blãk. Call it Coke Blãke. Rhymes with fake.
I don’t know if Autocrat still makes this Iced Cappuccino mix, but the same basic product is listed on their website as “Newport Coffee Traders Iced Cappuccino Mix” and you have to buy a gallon of it if you get it through the website. New Englanders can probably find it easier - just drive to Rhode Island. The iced cappuccino mix is good stuff.
In the last shotgun post, Jeremy asks how I arrived at my target calories form the day. I promise I won’t turn this into a diet blog, but I found something helpful that other people might be interested in.
Truth is, I just guessed at my target calories. I knew about how many calories I was eating a day to sustain my weight and I subtracted about 500 off of that, which is probably the most you should cut your calories by or else it starts to get hard to keep your metabolism from slowing down and burning off muscle and such.
However, you can get better guidance than that from a website I found over the weekend.
Calorie-Count.com appears to be a free site which will help you determine what your goal weight ought to be, how many calories you should eat a day to attain that goal and how long it will take you to get there.
For me, it chose a goal weight of about 156 lb. Ha! No thanks, I’m aiming a little above that at 165. I’m not going crazy with this, I just want to lose about 13 pounds if I can.
It judges you by height, weight and frame size (with the fingers-around-the-wrist ballpark method). Not very exact, but I figure it’s good enough for free. And it judged my BMI to be about what other more time-consuming methods also came up with.
The site not only helps you set your target, it also will keep track of your weight and your eating. They’ve got a pretty good database of foods in there, including specific restaurant food, so it takes some of the pain out of figuring out how much you’ve eaten (calorie-wise).
If you can keep up with it, eating fewer calories is the most effective way to lose weight, because you can’t gain what you don’t eat, and as long as you keep that metabolism going, you’re burning your body’s reserves. If this site helps you do that, then you can lose those extra 10 lbs or whatever you’ve got.
For more details and better instruction about calculating your targets, plus a completely practical approach to weight loss, read The Hacker’s Diet. It’s online, and it’s free. It’s where I got an idea about how many calories (generally) I would burn in a day. It’s where I learned that exercise doesn’t do much directly to cause weight loss, though exercise is important in the long run and for many other reasons. The Hacker’s Diet may be easier than plain counting, because it focuses on determining your body’s needs more precisely and then planning your meals around your daily intake requirements. It comes with Excel spreadsheets to do the heavy lifting for you, for things like the weighted moving averages and such.
OK, there would probably be few things more boring than me posting on and on about how I’m trying to eat better after months of not paying any attention and after the Achilles tendon problem that plagues me on and off and has me off my running. However, I decided that I need motivation to stay on track. So, every Friday, with the shotgun post, until I decide to stop, I’m posting my recent daily calorie counts and weight at the bottom of my post. The theory is, if I know people can see them I will be more careful eating. I’ve been counting starting on Monday. So here are the links to my online spreadsheets:
[BONUS: This Skittles commercial is creepy.]
How awesome is it that the Red Sox have a player named “Coco Crisp?”
I may not be the most savvy fan. I may not watch every game or catch the statistics. But I get a kick out of my favorite baseball team.
And that opening game was awesome. I need reassuring about Wakefield’s new catcher, this Josh Bard fellow. Can he learn to catch Wakefield’s knuckleballs? He’s new, so I’ll cut him some slack.
Red Sox on the radio means the summer is within reach. That’s exciting.
“Defendant testified that the vice president later advised him that the president had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE,” Fitzgerald wrote.
Cheney previously has said he has authority to release classified information, as does the president.
This is hearsay, with respect to the president’s role. It’s Libby saying that Cheney said…
However, I assume it is good testimony about the vice president’s involvement.
Someone needs to explain it to me.
I keep hearing from administration supporters that the Iraqi people are happy we’re there. And we all keep hearing about the violence. I presume that part of the reason the Iraqi people are happy we’re there is because of the violence, and that we’re helping to quash the violent elements when we can.
[Side Note: I’ve mentioned before a disconnect in the president’s stated reasoning. 1) We’re there to help the Iraqi people. 2) We’re fighting the terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here. Those two thoughts are quite incompatible, because if we are choosing where to have the fight, and we are attracting the terrorists and their ilk to Iraq, then we have put this fight in their backyard. How is that helping? I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which of the incompatible statements is false, or perhaps even both are false. But I digress.]
I’m not completely sure what the plan is in Iraq. But we’re getting ready to draw down troops. And it seems to me like we’re going to have to leave that country with plenty of ongoing violence to deal with.
I don’t know what you’re reading, but what I’m reading is that the violence is not decreasing. If anything, it seems to me like it is increasing. I don’t think anyone has a plan to “win” this war in the way you defeat an enemy, declare peace and move on. Which means that, as we leave, even assuming we’re leaving a capable Iraqi army behind, we’re leaving them with an ongoing war. We’re leaving a new country with a war that we haven’t been able to successfully fight.
And there are questions about whether we are going to be able to leave behind a capable Iraqi army.
Our recent advice to them, through our executive branch? “Get governing.”
Are we expecting some miracle to happen?
When they’re wrong, they can only shut you up.
They can try to shout you down, try to dispute the facts, change their story, lie, distract, and gang up on you.
But, in the end, they’re still wrong. And it will eat at them. And the only thing they can do to stop the mental anguish is to shut you up.
And then they win, and the lies win, and it’s all over.
Driving to work today I missed a light three times in similar situations.
The first time, the driver of the car was talking on a cell phone and couldn’t be bothered to make it through the light.
The second time, another car was driving well below the speed limit near Slades Ferry Bank driving towards the Brightman Street Bridge. I would have passed this car, but it was weaving dangerously. The light at Rt 6/Rt 138 turned yellow and red, and finally I was able to roll up beside the car. It looked like the 40-something woman in the SUV was playing with her phone. She continued to do so until the light turned green. I swear, it appeared like she was text-messaging someone! Or maybe she was using the phone’s keyboard to type out a suicide note.
The third time was in Dartmouth on Faunce Corner road. I thought I was dealing with another cell phone driver. A big car in the left turn lane suddenly drove right into an intersection without turning (there’s no lane there!) and then swung dangerously back into one of the lanes. By the time we got to Rt 6 he was pretty much done swerving back and forth. A glance over disproved my cell phone theory. It was just an old codger.
Driving in the SouthCoast. It’s like surviving in the jungle.
Singles remind me of kisses
Albums remind me of plans
Tonight it’s love by the fire
The wind plays over the coals
Passionate looks are my fancy
But you turn the look into stone
This is the game where you 1) try to recognize where the lyric came from and 2) give a one-word impression of the lyric.
If you feel the need to explain your one-word impression, that’s fine, too.
Have at it!
Dear Radio Callers Supporting English as the official language,
If you would like to make English the official language of the United States of America, I have a proposal for you. Make English the official language and then each citizen must identify which is his or her most fluent language (i.e. everyone must speak English, but some people will still have it as their second language).
If you identify “English” as your primary personal language, you will be heavily fined every time you massacre the language when you open your mouth. That includes calling in to talk radio shows and saying things like “we can’t do nuttin’” and such. You persist in using words like “supposably.” And when you incorrectly use popular idioms and commonplace words, as when you say “I am adverse to that,” it grates.
My grammar is far from perfect in my daily speech and on my weblog, but I’m pretty sure that with a brief study period I could get it up to snuff if it meant avoiding a fine. I have serious doubts about some of you xenophobes. I see a huge new source of revenue for the government and would love to see my tax burden lowered as language fines start to replace the income tax.
Maybe you ought to try speaking the language yourself before declaring it official. Just a thought.
(P.S. My position is that we should encourage the learning of English in non-English speakers and encourage the learning of a second language in English-only speakers like (sadly) myself. Buy we should not enforce contrived culturephobic exclusions by law.)
(P.P.S. This does not mean I plan to hire an editor for my blog, though I know good ones. I am still going to exercise license to use sentence fragments and such for effect. At least, until you all pass the law I suggested above.)
I didn’t mention it before, but this weekend was the date of K’s first sleepover party. She invited a bunch of girls to sleep over and all but one RSVP’d in the affirmative. So we had a total of… something like 10 5th grade girls. I didn’t count, and largely avoided them so as not to cramp their style.
The first time I ventured downstairs was to get my coat so I could go our and pick up M from her second B-day party of the day (to bring her home to her third) so Saturday was an insane flurry of parties for that little girl. I went to get my coat and said “Hello, ladies” to the girls who were eating dinner and they said “Hello, Mr. Burke” except for one who said “Hi, Mrs. Burke” by mistake before correcting herself, but it was too late. A cacophony of giggling arose and I had to hide my laugh. I would have made a joke, but I remember being that age and it’s embarrassing to make a mistake like that and humor doesn’t always smooth that over.
The girls were extremely well-behaved. The party went off without a hitch. In the morning we made a ton of bacon, eggs, fruit, frozen waffles and bagels. Then the front door bell started ringing and the girls left one by one. Only one parent seemed to miss the clock change.
Speaking of the clock change - can’t we just agree to stay on daylight savings? This switching stuff is inane. I know I whine every 6 months about this, but they make me change the stupid clocks every six months. PICK A TIME AND STICK WITH IT!
Sunday was mostly lazy, but we took advantage of the good weather by playing frisbee at the Pottersville school. The girls and I flung the disks high and watched the wind catch them and carry them over our heads. For this sort of activity it is especially useful to stand at home plate of a baseball diamond and have the big fence behind you, so you don’t have to go far when the disk comes screaming back. Unless the disk goes over the fence.
We ran the bases, and I exhausted myself and the girls. I am out of shape. I can’t believe that 2 years ago at this time I was running 2 miles with few problems. I can’t entirely blame my Achilles tendon for the lack of fitness and the weight gain, but it also is acting up again. Damn you, Achilles!
At one point, the disks landed close to a creepy garage on the school property and M approached with caution as she grabbed the disk and scooted away. “That place is scary!”
We retired to the swing set after K decided to play a game of “I’m going to grab all the disks and make you chase me down and tickle me.” We were too tired to do anything but swing by that point anyhow.
We walked back home and noted that you have to avoid the dog droppings here and there on the sidewalk and on the edge of the school property. Being a dad, I can’t help but turn to gross jokes (it’s my job). We complained about the people who don’t clean up after our dogs and speculated “How would they like it if we pooped on the sidewalk in front of their house?” There was talk of eating a lot of chili to help the plan along. Giggling ensued.
We all nearly fell asleep at mid afternoon. Again, stupid time change.
A satisfying weekend, if tiring. We did get some social recreation in as we played cards at the L’s house: friends of Maggie via scouts and old friends of my sister from high school. That was fun! We played poker for no stakes and just goofed around.
And another week begins. Did I mention I am going to Texas? (Not until mid-April)
Watching “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” Do you think we would have a better job market in Massachusetts if we’d put Robert Reich in the governor’s seat?
Former labor secretary for Clinton? You think? You think?
Stupid state party leadership. Stupid voters. Stupid Miss America.