Friday, February 29, 2008

Utah Companies

What is it with Utah businesspeople? Why are they such fools? First there were the companies that edited R-rated movies (requiring the owner/operators to watch untold hours of R-rated movies) and then there was Dell Shanze, who’s in a class of his own. Now there’s this company, that allegedly waterboarded a member of their sales team to give him motivation.

I always thought Mormons were good businesspeople. According to this New York Times article my brother-in-law forwarded to me,

“In the elite East Coast worlds where Romney has made his career, Mormonism signifies personal rectitude, professional competence and an idiosyncratic-but-impressive rejection of alcohol and caffeine. If anything, the systematic overrepresentation of Mormons among top businesspeople and lawyers affords LDS affiliation a certain cachet--rather like being Jewish, but taller.”

Do Super Dell (or, as he prefers it to be written, SUPERDELL) and Prosper, Inc. afford us “a certain cachet”?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Office Shenanigans II

A friend in high school (let’s call him “Jon Caligiuri,” for argument’s sake), one time told me, “You like to stir the [excrement] just to make it stink.” Yes, “Jon,” I guess I do.

For instance, yesterday I noticed a possible noun/verb agreement issue on one of our standard disclaimers at work. Pretty confident that pointing this out would get Tito irate, I sent this e-mail:

Question: can we update the language in the map disclaimer to reflect the fact that “data” is a plural noun, so the correct conjugation of “to be” would be “are”?

Old disclaimer: The data on this document is believed to be accurate.

Proposed correction: The data on this document are believed to be accurate.

Many, many “reply to all” e-mails followed, because around here that’s just how we roll. The owner, the president, and the vice-president of the company all participated. All the e-mails were either jokes or discussions of whether “data” still is a plural noun. Only one person sent an angry e-mail. Guess who it was.

I respectfully request that you limit the distribution of similar observations/corrections to your direct supervisor ([vice-president’s name]) or the appropriate members of the Core Team: [vice-president], [owner], myself, [someone else] and [someone else]. We will then review them and send out any required notifications to the group. You will, of course, receive credit for your discoveries as appropriate.

So I replied:

You can make such requests of my direct supervisor, who will then filter out meritless requests and pass any binding requests on to me.

Fall-out has already begun. Tito CCd the vice-president on his reply to me. According to a high-up friend of mine, he also forwarded my reply along to the vice-president with a note that they “need to talk” about it. To help ease the tension, I made sure to go eat a piece of the ice cream cake Tito brought in yesterday for another co-worker’s birthday, being careful to do this before Tito left for the day so I’d be sure to walk past his office with my piece. I also stopped at my friends desk to say, “I’m getting a piece of cake,” so Tito would hear me. Because if there’s one thing I want to do around here, it’s build office morale.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hot Mormon-on-Mormon Action

The last paragraph of this news article means it’s just a matter of time until someone does a Mormon version of “Pride and Prejudice.” Oh, wait. It’s already happened.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Redbox Plus and Minus

Plus: each movie only costs us a dollar (fifty cents for each of us), which is a great deal considering that most movies are crap. My number one complaint about nearly every movie we see is "I can't believe I just spent [dollar figure] on that." Now that number is incredibly low.

Minus: renting from Redbox is like going through a Hollywood Video in a single-file line. All the stupid decisions that the rank-and-file idiots make now have to happen slowly right in front of you before you can take your thirty-second turn with the machine. I stood for three minutes to return a movie today while a McDonald's employee on her break browsed through all the movie options twice.

Right now we're watching "Premonition," and, despite its incredible suckage, I'm fine with it because it only cost us fifty cents each. But it's going to take me more than fifty cents of my time to return the movie to the machine tomorrow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Baby in the House

So Stoic Sam, formerly known as Baby X, had his surgery yesterday and came home today. That was a surprise to us because the nurses told us we could expect him home in five to seven days. But he's back with just two bandages on him.

(Since my wife's blog links to my blog by searching for the word "balloon" for Stoic Sam updates, I'll throw it in here so this post comes up.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Googling for Valvuloplasty

I found this PowerPoint presentation wherein it defines a "successful" balloon aortic valvuloplasty as one in which the "patient did not die." Well, I'd happen to agree. (There are more criteria than that, actually, and the procedure is successful more than 80% of the time, so that's good news.)

Some of this information is a little skewed, though, because they use balloon aortic vavuloplasty for really old people who aren't healthy enough for bypasses or valve replacements, in addition to little kids like Stoic Sam. (For instance, some of the statistics have the patients divided into three groups, under 70, between 70 and 79, and over 80.)

The conclusion of this slide show is that mortality is low but morbidity (prevalence of the condition) is high. But again, they're dealing with old people who need the procedure because of a lifetime of heart health, not because of a birth defect, so I don't know how much of that applies to us.

Here's an article about a successful BAV on a 1,600 gram (3 lbs. 8 oz.) infant. (I might only be able to see this article because I'm on the Internet at a university right now; if this doesn't work for someone else, let me know).

Here's the abstract of an article I can't even get to on the university server about the best method of treating infantile aortic valve stenosis. Their conclusion: punt. (They're trying to make me pay $25 a year so I can read a report that concludes with "it depends"? No wonder doctors are rich!)

Also, it appears that "cutting edge" stuff in this field revolves around doing this to a fetus, which seems even crazier.

Life Coach

So I'm a life coach now. Why? Because I got to thinking a couple weeks ago, "People pay money for life coaches, and being a life coach takes no actual skill. I could be a life coach. I wonder if I hung a flier on the library bulletin board how many calls I'd get?" And that was when I decided to be a life coach.

Persephone told me I couldn't do it. "There're all sorts of liability issues," she said. "What if you ruined someone's life?"

I told her I'd read a book first. So I searched for "life coach" in the Lawrence Public Library online database, but they didn't have any books. So I searched in the database for Topeka/Shawnee County Public Library (which is even better because they will mail the books to me), and I ended up getting Maybe Life's Just Not That Into You, by Martha Bolton and Brad Dickson.

But it turns out it's not a real self-help book; it's a humor book that mocks self-help books. But I read it anyway. When I was 40 percent finished with the book I told Persephone, "I'm 40 percent of the way to being a life coach." She gave me a critical look, but last night when I finished the book she said, "Now you're a life coach." So I guess I am.

Now all I have to do is make my flier. I figure it's going to be really easy. This place is probably crawling with people who want to do well in school, they just can't make themselves do it (like me, circa 1999-2000). As a matter of fact, I have two classes with a girl who is a prime candidate for a life coach.

I'll keep you posted on my new career. Imagine if I can make enough money at this to quit my crap job! That would be hilarious!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Super Problem Child

Cristin: they diagnosed his heart problems stemming from a heart murmur when he was born. They listened again a day or so later, then again at the doctor's office the next week. When it hadn't gone away, they had Persephone take him down to Kansas City to have some imaging of his heart done. She went on Friday, expecting it to be an appointment, but it turned into admitting him to the hospital. The doctors explained everything to Persephone since she was there, so all I know about it I've heard from her. Evidently his heart is supposed to get a rating of 90 on some sort of measurable event, but it only gets a 5. (Good journalism practice would require me to spell out the word "five," but I'm a blogger, so good journalism practice can go screw itself.)

So he's getting his balloon treatment on Tuesday, evidently. (They keep calling it a procedure, but I'm pretty sure that's just because parents don't respond well to the word "operation." Procedures can be something like getting new windshield wiper blades installed; operations are like Desert Storm.)

That's all we know right now. We blessed Stoic Sam in the hospital today. Both his grandfathers and my Kansas brother were there to help.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Heart

So we found out why Stoic Sam is so stoic: he's got a critical aortic valve stenosis. He went to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City for some digital imaging and they admitted him as a patient. So he's had his first overnight in a different state.

Tuesday he's going to have balloon valvuloplasty. So many big words! So anyway, if you're wondering why Persephone's blog is growing stale, it's because she's spending most of her time in Kansas City now.

Friday, February 15, 2008

So...Much...Pressure!

Justin calls me “The Intellectual” on his blog. How am I supposed to live up to that billing?

Here’s a joke our vector calculus professor told us today. I actually thought it was kind of funny.

A bunch of functions are going on a bus ride together when the bus is suddenly boarded by a derivative. The functions all start trying to run away, since derivatives change functions. One function stays in his place without panicking. The derivative says to the function, “What’s your deal?” The function says, “I’m not scared of you; I’m e to the x.” The derivative says, “Well, I’m d/dy.”

I still think it’s funny. Am I becoming a nerd? Or, worse yet (from my Republican perspective), an intellectual?

Quick, somebody get me a beer and some NASCAR, stat!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Serious Strike Against Teaching

Teaching is pretty good, I guess, but it has one giant flaw: restrooms.

You don’t have restrooms available that aren’t the same as the ones used by the idiots who think the best reaction to a bout of diarrhea is leaving the unflushed toilet for everyone else to see. At least high school teachers had their own restrooms, which I assume were nicer than the student restrooms. But every time I think, “Maybe I’d like to teach college for a living,” I think, “No you don’t, dude [I call myself “dude” sometimes]; they’ve got restroom problems in that profession.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Geniuses and Idiots

I have three sections of Introductory Microeconomics that I'm teaching this semester. My Monday section is full of geniuses, while my Wednesday section is full of idiots. What's that about?

My wife, who was actually trained in teaching, has silent fits when she thinks the reason I'm being allowed to teach is that I got good economics grades. I'm sure I make the teaching profession proud when I call my Wednesday section idiots, but before you judge me, you should see their quiz scores.

(I believe state law prohibits me from actually showing you their quiz scores, so you'll just have to take my word for it.)

Why such a crap post? Because I don't have much to say today. It's very cold here in Kansas today (current temperature: 20 degrees, wind chill feels like 5) and I'm hungry.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Caucus, Caucus, Caucus!"

I caucused this morning, and I'm completely unsatisfied with the experience. My ballot allowed me to choose between Rudy Giuliani, Alan Keyes, Ron Paul, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and undecided. However, only Paul, McCain, and Huckabee had people there to speak for them. Going through the sign-in line took so long that I didn't get into the assembly area until the speakers had started, so I couldn't ask around and find out if I could speak for Romney.

I entered the hall as the McCain spokesman said, "And he said to me, 'Son, being beaten and kept in a tiger cage is a hard week. This is just a week we'll work through.'" Honestly, that's what he said. McCain and his tiger cage are quickly becoming the new Giuliani and 9/11. "Hey, Senator McCain, do you prefer the Big Mac or the Whopper?" "I was in a tiger cage!" "Uh, that's not what I asked." "Don't you dare contradict me! Tiger cage!"

Then the Ron Paul guy got up and gave a rousing speech that ended with a call for trade protectionism. Seriously. I'm surprised Paul doesn't want to drive the newfangled automobile manufacturers out of business to protect the vital buggy whip industry.

Last came the speakers for Mike Huckabee. One of the speakers said Huckabee runs an honest and principled campaign. I laughed. I was the only one who laughed. The rest of them thought he was telling the truth.

Then it was time to vote. That was it. It wasn't at all like a caucus as had been explained to me by Wikipedia and people from Iowa. They handed out ballots and I voted for Romney, then I left.

This afternoon Fox News is reporting that Huckabee won a huge victory in Kansas. Which just pisses me off even more that Romney dropped out. Super Tuesday's results were not decisive. McCain won a lot of states, but never with a convincing majority. There was no reason for Romney to drop out. McCain didn't roll to victory; Huckabee got three times the votes McCain got.

So maybe we'll still end up with a brokered convention if McCain can't win conservative states.


Title from the teachers' caucus in the episode "The PTA Disbands" of "The Simpsons."

Friday, February 08, 2008

Stupid Romney

Why did he drop out? Honestly, what is his reasoning? McCain is not the consensus nominee. Huckabee has run out of southern states wherein to pander his bigotry.

This article I read today in the Wall Street Journal is sort of interesting, in a makes-you-angry sort of way.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What the Hell?!

Romney is suspending his campaign?! Is there even a Republican Party anymore?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Change Your Life So I Don't Have To Change Mine

First it was John McCain, now it’s petitioning Muslims on Wikipedia. Both want to restrict other people’s behaviors because they’re too weak-willed to change their own.

  1. John McCain: McCain found that, when bankers wanted to pay for air travel for him and his family, he just couldn't say no. He wanted to, he really wanted to, but he just couldn’t. He understands why it looked improper (main reason it looked improper: because it was improper), but he was powerless to stop it.

    Looks improper.

    Of course, just because he can’t control himself is no reason to think he shouldn’t be trusted with controlling the armed forces, the economy, or even a soft serve ice cream machine.

    Can get out of control.

    All Johnny needs is for you to stop having so many rights. Taking bribes is a lot harder when no one is free to bribe you. So surrender your right to free speech so John McCain can keep himself out of trouble.

  2. Islam has been around for nearly 1,300 years, and while it was once acceptable for Muslims to depict Mohammed in art, today it’s such a horrible thing that it requires the burning of a Danish flag. Why is it so bad? Because of the Ten Commandments prohibition against graven images. Muslims don’t have an Amish-like phobia of pictures in general, just pictures of Mohammed. So what’s the difference between a picture and a graven image? Anything can be a graven image to the person who decides to worship it. A picture of Mohammed is just a picture to me, so why can’t I put one on Wikipedia?

    Just a picture.

    But because a Muslim might accidentally worship a picture of Mohammed, non-picture worshippers can’t flaunt those pictures. Even though the ones on Wikipedia were created by Muslims. Seven hundred years ago.

    Sometimes I wonder why modern Muslims have such a beef with modern Americans. They both deny the existence of personal responsibility. Americans say, “McDonald’s got me fat,” and Muslims say, “Women who aren’t covered by a sheet make me think naughty thoughts.” It seems like they should get along famously.

Over-Reaction

Okay, I got to school this morning and checked the final news reports regarding yesterday's primaries, and it's not that bad. I'm disappointed, but it's not that bad. Republicans can respond in two ways:

  1. Well, McCain's the nominee. I guess I'll stay home and not vote for my guy.
  2. Oh no, I'd better go vote for my guy or John McCain will be the nominee!

I still stand by my ordering of candidates I devised last night: Romney, Obama, Paul, nobody.

(And what the hell happened with my California insider information? You were pretty badly off there, whack-jobs.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Stupor Tuesday

Man, living on the West Coast made everything easier. Nothing happened while you were asleep, and lots of boring stuff happened during the day, so when you got home from work the results were already known. Case in point: Super Tuesday. It's nine o'clock here in Kansas and returns are still being tabulated. By nine o'clock in California, it would all be over. But that's not enough to make me move back to California. (What is enough to make me move back? Absolutely nothing.)

So John "Don't You Eye-Ball Me, Mister!" McCain is going to be the Republican nominee? At least that's how it looks right now. McCain has won New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Illinois, and Mike "Did I Mention That I Know Jesus?" Huckabee has won Hillbilly Junction (Arkansas) and a few other places where tank tops are acceptable formal wear. Jesus Jr. also won West Virginia because McCain's people went to Huck en masse (not, however, in Mass, which is one place Huck's supporters wouldn't be caught dead), since even Crazy McCain knows that a vote for Huckabee is a vote against Romney.

And what of Romney? He's not even winning Montana?! I thought this guy was serious. Right now he's pulling off the Republican primary equivalent of McGovern's 1972 campaign: he's winning Massachusetts, and he's hoping that's enough.

On the Democrat side, Southern states that have a lot of racists and not many black people are going for Clinton (who teared up again this week, right on time).
So looking at things from a conservative perspective, what's the general election going to look like for me?

McCain: Campaign finance reform. 'Nuff said. But, just in case that's not enough said, he's also crazy angry all the time and thinks that anyone who disagrees with him on a policy issue is siding with the Viet Cong.

Huckabee: Bigot. Populist. And he belittles my Savior by turning him into a campaign talking point. Jesus means more to me than a boost in the polls, Mike. I told my brother today, "Huckabee might be the most Christian guy in the race, but he has done more to sully Christianity than any other candidate."

Clinton: Only slightly crazier than McCain. I suspect she's already filled out her first proscription list. She makes Lucius Sulla look like Mr. Rogers.

Obama: This is where I might end up, which is crazy, because he has the most liberal positions of all the remaining candidates and I'm a far-from-liberal guy. (I'm just one more transportation bill away from quiting the Republican Party.) But here's what Obama has going for him:

  1. He's normal. As normal as presidential candidates can be. Like Greenspan said in his book The Age of Turbulence, "People who are on the top of the political heap are really different. Jerry Ford was as close to normal as your get in a president, but he never was elected" (59). Barack Obama is as close to normal as your going to get with these remaining candidates.
  2. He's honest. He supports policies I don't agree with, but at least he openly supports them and tries to explain why.
  3. He's liberal. Someone whose goals are so different from mine might help my cause in the long run. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, "Jimmy Carter gave us Ronald Reagan."

So there I am. I'm still going to caucus for Romney on Saturday, and I think he'll have enough support that I won't have to go to my "second choice" candidate, which is good because, right now, I don't have a second choice. But in the general election, Obama is starting to look like the best remaining choice.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

One time while we were driving between Lawrence and Saint Louis we stopped at the outlet mall in Warrenton, MO, and I ended up buying a DVD copy of "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" for my sister (because it was $3.99). Then, a year or so later, we stopped at the same outlet mall and I found the same movie and I thought, "I should buy that for my sister." So I did, but then my wife said, "I think you already did that once." We called my sister and asked her and, sure enough, I had already sent it to her. So now we own our own copy. Tonight I opened it up and we started watching it.

Articulate Joe had a nap this afternoon, which he doesn't often do, and when he does, he doesn't sleep well at night. So he's out of bed watching it with us right now. Persephone told him, "Don't tell your sister we let you do this."

Anyway, this movie has many obvious problems. There are sudden unexplained changes in the story. His "sterile" environment doesn't seem so sterile. He just got to second base in the back of a van with his parents in the front. I mean, seriously, they could have turned around at any time. (Although in the character's defense, that's a second base worth the risk, if you know what I mean.) And now it just ended with him riding a horse. Is he going to die from leaving his bubble?

As soon as the movie ended, Articulate Joe stood up and said, "Bye, I'm going to sleep now!"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Tidbits

Two things:

  1. Recently a United States senator was angry about destroyed videotapes. Were they CIA interrogation tapes? Of course not! This is the United States Senate we’re talking about, here; they have more important things to worry about. No, Arlen Specter (R-eprehensible) was upset that the NFL destroyed video evidence from the New England Patriots scandal earlier this year. He was also one of the senators who wanted to force the NFL into airing the Patriots’ final regular season game on more-widely available networks. Because when you live in a nation of laws, it’s completely understandable that one man use his government position to push around a pro sports league. I know I’ve done it, and who among you can honestly say you never have? This is exactly the type of government the Founders envisioned, so I couldn’t be happier with the current state of affairs.
  2. I clicked over to cnn.com (because work is so boring today that I’ve already been through foxnews.com, msnbc.com, yahoo.com, ljworld.com, and kansan.com) and read the headline, “Official: mentally disabled women blown up.” What they were trying to say is that two crazy chicks were suicide bombers today in Iraq, but since CNN prefers the term “insurgents,” which is “morally neutral” (it’s important to maintain moral neutrality when talking about terrorists, who could very well be more morally correct than we), they changed the headline to make it seem like an official person, somewhere in the world, was letting everyone know that he’d blown up some crazy ladies. The same story at foxnews.com is called “Retarded women send [sic] to die.” At msnbc.com it’s called “Iraq blasts kill at least 73.” At yahoo.com it’s called “Female bombers strike markets in Baghdad” Only CNN made it seem like a controlled demolition.

My Case Against John McCain

Campaign finance reform isn’t even something McCain has said sorry about. Why should I be silenced just to keep him from becoming one of the Keating Five (again)? If he lacks the inner conviction to refuse bribes, why does that mean I have to lose my constitutional rights? McCain’s campaign finance reform law says more about his unfitness for office than I ever could. “Oh, it’s too tough! There’s too much money! I can’t say no!” Then get out of the Senate. Instead, his answer was to make it illegal to mention candidates by name in particular types of speech.

When asked what he thought the words “Congress shall make no law” meant in respect to prohibiting speech, McCain replied, “Listen here, you little snot-nosed punk! I don’t answer to you or to anybody! I’m John McCain, see? You have no right to question me! Don’t look at me! I saw you eyeballing me, mister, and let me tell you what it’s going to get you: a whole mess of trouble! You screwed with the wrong guy! I was a prisoner of war, so I can restrict any[censored]body’s [censored] speech any [censored] time I [censored] want to! ‘Cause I’m John [censored] McCain!” When asked for clarification, McCain replied, “[censored].”