Friday, January 30, 2009

A bit mind-blowing, but in a good way.

A year or two ago, I read a short article about someone at MIT who lit a light bulb from several feet away without using a wire to connect it to the power source. This article unveils what the experiment at MIT was working toward: Wireless electricity for appliances and other devices. There are several versions; one uses a pad with a short-range inductive system that can charge compatible devices placed on it. A cell phone or mp3 player with the proper hardware could charge without being plugged into the wall, for example. Other systems work over longer distances to power large appliances and other systems - one system even converts electricity into radio waves, using a receptor in the device being powered to convert the waves back into electricity. There's no chance of accidental electrocution, either; these aren't lightning bolts shooting through the air. It's as dangerous as WiFi, and a lot more useful (fat lot of good a signal is if your laptop battery's dead).

I imagine it'll follow the same pattern cell phones did; at first a few people on the bleeding edge will have the technology, either as work tools or status symbols. Then, as it becomes cheaper and simpler, with a wider range of uses and options, it'll become widespread to the point of ubiquity, and eventually the old technology will become a near-relic of a former age. Cords and plugs will still exist the way landlines still exist, but the younger generation will favor wireless chargers and other new technologies over the old, clunky plug-and-outlet set-up. It's a fascinating prospect.

And, as a follow-up to the last post ...

Via Turk Turon: Once again, Scott Adams proves to be eerily prophetic.

For myself: I can, in fact, pay February's rent. March's payment is somewhere out there in the ether. I don't even want to think about April.

A visual representation of the "stimulus"

This is the part where I start screaming.

While we're on the subject ...

... if Obama is Queeg, is Balgojevich Michael Scott?

Just throwin' that out there.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oh, here we go again with the little steel balls ...

Over at The Corner, they're wondering why Obama went on what ended up being a fool's errand: He went in person to drum up support for his stimulus bill among House Republicans, only to be completely rebuffed when the time came to vote. Levin's question is, are Obama's staffers too naive or too incompetent to keep this sort of thing from happening?

My theory is that Obama is, in fact, convinced of his own god-like powers of persuasion - in short, he's been reading his own PR. He really does think that he's that good, and because his staff is likely nothing but yes-men, they think he's that good, too. Levin points out that most presidents don't make such public gestures unless their staff has already done the grunt work; i.e., gotten enough votes that he can swoop in and look like he's doing something without actually running the risk of embarrassment.

During the run-up to election season, I read "The Caine Mutiny", an excellent book and, as it turned out, a very informative one. I found myself watching in astonishment as Obama's constant flip-flops, half-baked explanations and personal betrayals of decades-long relationships reminded me of the paranoid Captain Queeg. (I wrote about this before, back in July.) Despite his extraordinary aptitude for looking confident and capable (and for covering his ass), Obama is, frankly, a bill of goods. He has no discernible skills that make him specifically qualified for the position of president. Had he been selected to run a privately-owned company, those beneath him would doubtless do everything they could to get him out as soon as possible. He's a glad-hander, a manipulator, a mover and shaker, and a very, very skillful one at that. But he's not a leader, and, barring some event I can't forsee, I don't think he'll ever be one. Rest assured, I take no pleasure in asserting that I'm just waiting for him to crumble. I would have said crash and burn, but he's too good at softening the landing with the corpses of his colleague's reputations.

Which is a pretty gross metaphor, now that I think about it.

Also, it's getting too sober for kittens. Go find your own.

And down the chute I go again, looking longingly at the ladders.

So I just found out that because I use a template document for cover letters, every job submission I've sent out since I lost my job has had a glaring error in the first line. These jobs have almost exclusively dealt with copy editing and proofreading. I've been doing this for the past six weeks. It would upset my stomach, except I think I'm already past that point.

I am just so sick of starting over.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A discovery

I think the only thing harder to write than a death scene is the scene where someone learns about the death. Gah, what a chore.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What has it got in its pocketses?

It's the latest meme: Take a picture of the contents of your pockets. Brigid (who bought my beer and lunch at the blogmeet last Sunday; thanks Brigid!) did it, as did a few others, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Here ya are:
That's right, I carry a phone, a small utility knife and a tube of chapstick. Everything else is optional, including keys: I figure that if I'm really in a jam, either the first or second item will get me out of it. Ironically, the chapstick is a gimme from my old job; I got it my first day at orientation. It's the only useful thing the company actually gave me. Everything else I learned came straight from my awesome boss and coworkers. Odd as it sounds, I miss getting up and going to work in the morning; I liked the structure and purpose it gave each day. I can't wait to get back into that swing of things. (That's a hint for all you potential employers out there: Hire me! I want to come to work on Monday!)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Oh, I'm stimulated, all right ...

If this doesn't make you mad, then I can't help you: Top 20 Fast Facts About the House Democrats' Trillion Dollar Spending Plan. Some highlights:

1. The $825 billion package slated for a House vote later this week will exceed more than $1.1 trillion when adding in the interest ($300 plus billion) between 2009-2019 to pay for it.


7. Even though the legislation contains at least 152 separate spending proposals, the authors of the plan can only say that 34 have any chance at keeping or growing jobs.


9. The total cost of this one piece of legislation is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government.

10. The House Democrats’ bill will cost each and every household $6,700 in additional debt, paid for by our children and grandchildren.


16. A scant 2.7 percent, or $22.3 billion of the overall package, is dedicated to small business tax relief.

17. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the legislation increases by seven million the number of people who get a check back from the IRS that exceeds what they paid in payroll and income taxes.


20. $825 billion is just the beginning – many Capitol Hill Democrats want to spend even more taxpayer dollars on their “stimulus” plan. In fact, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), told Roll Call earlier this month, “I would not be surprised to see us go further on some of these programs down the line.”
I have to say, though, that of all the items of that list, this one is my favorite:
15. All board members of the “Accountability and Transparency Board” created by this legislation are appointees of the President; none will be appointed by Congress.
"Transparency." Obama keeps saying that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

More futile begging: I have a wide range of office skills and I can learn to do just about anything. E-mail me!

Via CG.

Just go read it.

Oh Mark Steyn, I hope someday I can be as cool as you. You've managed once again to take the starry-eyed delusions of the privileged masses and reduce them down to their barebones worst. In this case, it's the realization that Obama is not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy! He's suave and urbane and cool and ... a politician? Deep down, he's just another hack drone beating his way through the bipartisan bush, except "bipartisan" really means "whatever I want done, and if you don't go along with it, then you're just being obstructive." I've met people like him. Heck, my sister married one. They're unteachable. They're unreachable. And most of all, they don't play well with others. I, frankly, have stopped being all depressed and apocalyptic* about the coming Obama presidency. I'm just popping some popcorn and sitting back to watch the show. I love a good crash and burn.

Also, Steyn gets mad props for working Victorian bodice-rippers into a political column. That takes some doing. Kudos.

*Although if I lived in California/Arizona/New Mexico/Texas, the apocalypse might seem just a tiny bit nearer. Sheesh.

All via Conservative Grapevine. It's awesome. It's like the anti-Fark.


A few days ago, the story went around the blogosphere that the military color guard at the Super Bowl would not be allowed to remain the stadium to watch the game. This caused a lot of shouting, and the NFL changed their mind. Unfortunately, it turned out their original plan was SOP:

We’ve received nearly 50 e-mails over the past 12 hours regarding a contention that the Color Guard won’t be permitted to stay and watch the Super Bowl after doing their duty during the National Anthem.

The specific allegation is that Super Bowl XLIII will mark a change from past procedures utilized by the NFL.

And plenty of fans are upset about it.

While the members of the Color Guard (and all of the other extras who are involved in the various on-field events) won’t retreat to their seats in the stands like the members of the home team’s band at a college football game, this is standard practice, and it doesn’t represent a change of any kind.

“The members of the Color Guard have always been our guests at a Super Bowl party in a compound on the stadium grounds where they watch the game on big-screen TVs and enjoy food and beverage,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told us via e-mail. “That is how we have done it every year.”

That’s an important point, in our view. Because the outrage is being stoked by the contention that something has changed, presumably due to the economy. Well, nothing has changed. Per the league, this is the way it has always been done.
So, apologies to the NFL. Sorry. Should have done our homework first.

As you were.

Via The Tank via Ace.

Sunday Night Recipe Post: Hot Cocoa

I'm trying something new here, putting up recipes on Sunday nights. I have a lot of 'em, and it's fun. So, here we go. And because I'm tired and have a wicked nasty dehydration headache (it's moved into my eustachean tubes! Augh!), I'm just going to dash off my super-duper most awesomest hot cocoa recipe. Enjoy.

Super-Duper Most Awesomest Hot Cocoa

1 c. milk (2% fat or higher; skim is a last resort)
3 heaping spoonfuls cocoa
1 heaping spoonful sugar
2-4 drops vanilla extract
As many marshmallows as will fit in the top of the mug

Heat the milk in the microwave (mine takes between two and three minutes - don't scorch it). While the milk is heating, mix the cocoa and sugar together in the bottom of a dry, empty mug. When the milk is heated, pour just enough into the mug to make a paste with the cocoa mixture. This step is key for preventing lumps. Stir until smooth (use a fork or a small whisk), then slowly mix in the rest of the milk. Once combined, add vanilla to taste. Add marshmallows, eating at least two straight from the bag before putting it away. Serves one. This is not a low-calorie snack.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

There's no other word for how I feel about this except 'disgusted.'

A quick note to the AP: When an actual "news" story - not an editorial - starts out like this:

Barack Obama opened his presidency by breaking sharply from George W. Bush's unpopular administration, but he mostly avoided divisive partisan and ideological stands. He focused instead on fixing the economy, repairing a battered world image and cleaning up government.
you have moved beyond self-parody. There are a few blah-blah bits in the middle that baaaaaaarely pass for reasonable reporting, although these paragraphs really spice things up:
A picture of poise, Obama didn't get rattled when Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the oath of office, an exercise repeated a day later to ensure constitutionality. He breezed through his speech — which repudiated Bush's tenure though never personally attacked him — without a misstep. Even with the weight of the country's troubles now on his shoulders, he was relaxed as he twirled his wife, Michelle, at celebratory balls.

"I don't sweat," Obama said on the eve of his inauguration — a comment meant literally, and, perhaps, figuratively.

Maybe not. But he has yet to face a crisis head-on as the country's leader, and it's only then that his confidence truly will be tested.
That last sentence? That has no business being in a news report. It's an emotional, evocative phrase that indicates a wishful tone and a complete lack of journalistic sense on the part of the reporter. There's a paragraph after this one where a Princeton professor describes him as Superman turning back into Clark Kent, but the comparison has nothing to do with national crises and everything to do with letting his supporters down easy. Skipping to the end:
Throughout it all, Obama demonstrated noticeable stylistic differences with his predecessor.

The high-tech Obama chose to keep his cherished BlackBerry, becoming the first sitting president to use e-mail. He made an impromptu visit to the White House's cramped media quarters just "to say hello." He also was spotted at one point ducking into the White House press office to consult with an aide. Bush avoided both areas at all costs.

In one Oval Office ceremony, Obama went through each executive order as he signed them, reading parts of each and methodically explaining them. He even halted a few times to ask for clarification from his White House counsel. That sort of deferral to someone else in a public setting and admission of a less-than-perfect command of the facts was never Bush's style.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is not journalism. It's not even good writing. There are no examples of Bush's behavior, just the "reporter"'s assertions, coupled with her assumption that we agree with her. It's not a story. It's the typographical equivalent of a tongue-bath. That it got past the editors in this state at all astounds me, except that I've come to expect this sort of dreck over the last couple years. If this is what we have to expect over the next four, I think I may just become a hermit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." -- Douglas Adams.

That is all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Well, here we go ...

I blogged a couple days ago about the goin's on at the Indianapolis Star, my former employer. Today, turns out that things is rough all over:

Deadline set for Rocky Mountain News bids (The deadline is today, incidentally.)

Minneapolis' Star Tribune files Chapter 11

A Seattle Newspaper Writes Its Own Obituary

That last one is about the Seattle Post Intelligencer, which is also searching for a buyer and blogging the hospice process. (Just keep pushing the morphine button, honey, and it'll be that much easier.) And, of course, the New York Times is circling the drain, desperately trying to keep their A-list investors happy and go out with a bang.

I got pushed out of an industry that is actively cutting its own throat, spared the horrible process of watching employer after employer go under. So, to celebrate and lighten the mood, here's a recipe for pancakes:

For every 1 c. flour:
1 T. baking powder (or) 2 t. cream of tartar and 1 t. baking soda
1 T. sugar (opt.)
1 egg
1/2 t. salt (opt.)
2 T. oil
1 c. milk

Heat griddle until a drop of water dances on it, then lightly grease with butter or oil. Pour batter to desired size and flip when bubbles appear on top. If making a large batch, separate eggs and whip egg whites to keep pancakes from going flat during cooking. Serve warm with butter, syrup, honey or fruit. Pancakes keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

I'm creative, hard-working and good with details: E-mail jllees1[at]gmail[dot]com for more.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Seriously? You have to ask?

Headline of the day: Israeli forces shell UN headquarters in Gaza:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, engulfing the compound and a warehouse in fire and destroying thousands of pounds of food and humanitarian supplies intended for Palestinian refugees.

Another Israeli bombardment on Thursday killed the Hamas security chief.

U.N. workers and Palestinian firefighters, some wearing bulletproof jackets, struggled to douse the flames and pull bags of food from the debris after the Israeli attack, which was another blow to efforts to ease the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Dense smoke billowed from the compound.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in the region to end the devastating offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers, demanded a "full explanation" and said the Israeli defense minister told him there had been a "grave mistake."
Oh, there was a mistake all right. The mistake is that the world places the "humanitarian crisis" on Israel's shoulders, when the duly elected Hamas government could have spent all that rocket money on things like roads and sewers. Then they'd have decent living conditions, the U.N. wouldn't have to be there, and Israel wouldn't have a reason to go stomping through their backyards. It's a win-win-win.

It astounds me, the way the Arab/Muslim mindset seems to demand respect without having to earn it. "You must respect me," they say, "for no other reason than that I am inherently better than you" (incidentally, a sure sign of a profound sense of inferiority), but the second someone opposes them or refuses to give them that "respect", they switch to "Mommmmmmmm, he's being mean to me! Make him stopppppp!" mode. It's pathetic. It'd be laughable if there wasn't such a horrible toll from it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm having a hard time feeling bad about this one ...

A friend at my old employer, the Indianapolis Star, texted me today and told me that everyone at the paper has to take a week off, unpaid, between now and March. The idea is to save money for the company. Keep in mind, this is after several rounds of layoffs in a six-month period.

Yeahhhhhhh. I have never been so glad for the chance to exit that industry.

I type 80-90 words per minute with 90 percent accuracy. E-mail jllees1[at]gmail[dot]com for details.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Life goes on, etc.

Filed my weekly unemployment claim, tra la. Paid my student loan with my credit card, tra la. Spent three hours online with tech support just so I can print off my resume on good paper, only to find out that I am out of both black and color ink. Tra la.

Traffic court tomorrow, tra la, which is a big wake-up call that I need to pay more attention to my attention deficit disorder. Skipped krav today for no good reason, which means I ultimately hate myself for being lazy, tra la. And I may or may not have bought a shotgun over the weekend. Tra la. Life is more interesting without those petty things like "jobs" and "income" to worry about.

As always, have bachelor's, will travel: jllees1[at]gmail[dot]com.

Tra la.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Well, here we go ...

Three and a half hours into 2009, I have a small sense of going in circles, easily overpowered by the sense of flying into the future with no steering and no brakes, just a track I didn't lay (but I trust the track layer). In some ways, I'm back where I was a year ago: Jobless, for one, and still paying medical bills from Sept. 2007, for another. Mostly, though, it's a new journey: I've got an apartment and a kitty and a car (and all their resultant expenses), I've made friends and gotten myself somewhat established, and I'm probably going to have to move out of state to continue my career. I don't want to be the person who takes a job "just to pay the bills until I find something better" and is still there 10 years later. I don't mind the thought of moving too terribly, and I don't think I'd mind having to make new friends in a new place. But I'd just like to feel that I have a handle on things, that I won't suddenly be forced to change my grip every few months or so.

So, here's to 2009: Let's hope that things will only go up from here.