Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, February 28, 2005 9:14 pm

Victoria sits at the table

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 9:14 pm

The Lord’s table, that is … she had her first Communion Sunday evening. (We Presbyterians offer Communion to children as young as first grade, although they still don’t become voting members of the church until after the traditional confirmation service, typically around seventh grade or so.)

We’ve been attending her classes together, even though parents weren’t required to attend but a couple, because she was nervous about the whole thing, including the fact that she would be sitting with other children and church elders at dinner, rather than with me. But she paid close attention during the classes and was able to explain the purpose and meaning of the sacrament without any prompting when they were through.

Last night at the dinner before the service, she was seated next to a girl she knew well from choir, and they had a blast; I don’t think she looked at me once the whole time. And she did exactly what she was supposed to do during the service and looked good and behaved well while doing it.

As part of one of their classes, the kids made wine chalices for themselves out of clay, then glazed and fired them (I haven’t done anything with clay since 2nd grade, so I’m not sure of the exact technique). After the service last night, V. insisted that I accept her chalice as a gift, a sign of her appreciation for my having come to all the classes with her.

I darned near cried.

Oh, Eyeeeeeeeee-gor?

How to mail a fresh brain.

(Via MetaFilter)

… and his most recent bowling score was better than mine.

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 6:01 am

Hooper is 4 today.

Happy birthday, buddy!

Thursday, February 24, 2005 5:51 am

Ouch

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:51 am

This post at Unfogged is disturbing. The accompanying comments are by people who are disturbed. It’s all hilarious, but, guys, you’re gonna want to go ahead and cross your legs before clicking on the link so as to avoid the rush.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005 11:48 pm

Stars Faces fell in Alabama …

Filed under: Fun,Sad — Lex @ 11:48 pm

… after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal of that state’s ban on the sale of sex toys.

And I think this Billmon post says it all.

Always do the math. Even when you’re an economist.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 11:46 pm
Tags: ,

You already know what the first three rules of investigative reporting are.* Rule No. 4? Always read the documents. And either Rule No. 5 or Rule No. 4A is: Always do the math. This is particularly important when writing about taxes and government spending.

The Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson agrees, I’m happy to report: “It’s always necessary to do the math. By this I mean that journalists need to measure politicians’ promises against underlying realities, as represented by numbers.”

So why didn’t he do it?

Our central budget problem, as I’ve noted in earlier columns, is the coming spending explosion in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, driven by aging baby boomers and rising health spending. In 2004 these programs cost $965 billion, or 8.4 percent of the economy (gross domestic product). The Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2030 their costs will rise to 14 percent of GDP, or more than $1.6 trillion in today’s dollars. Avoiding a (nearly) $700 billion annual increase in taxes or deficits would require comparable spending cuts in other government programs. It won’t happen. The projected increase in retirement spending nearly equals all federal “discretionary spending” — a category that includes defense, homeland security, environmental programs, national parks, scientific research and much more. We’re not going to eliminate all these programs.

Once you’ve done this math, you recognize that benefit cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are inevitable. They’re the only other way to limit massive tax increases or immense budget deficits. Moreover, the benefit cuts have to affect baby boomers, because they will be the people on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The critical period occurs from 2011 to 2029, when all baby boomers (people born from 1946 to 1964) hit 65. That’s when budgetary pressures intensify.

Samuelson, although identified here as a political columnist, is an economist, for God’s sake. And yet it somehow has escaped his notice that if we do nothing at all to Social Security — nothing at all, meaning no benefit cuts, no tax increase, no borrowing, and even taking into account the likely need for increases in spending on benefits — it can continue to pay full benefits to 2042, more than a decade later than the “critical period” Samuelson is worrying about.

Medicare and Medicaid are indeed disasters waiting to happen. But the current budget deficits and trade deficits, which he doesn’t even address, are disasters happening right now. Social Security? Pfffft. Yeah, we’ll need to do something eventually. But right now and for the next couple of decades or so, we’ve got much bigger problems. And surely Samuelson is smart enough to know it.

His column comes with the headline “Journalistic malpractice.” Truth in advertising, I guess.

*OK, maybe you don’t. They’re: 1) Follow the money. 2) Follow the money; and 3) Follow the money.

Monday, February 21, 2005 8:56 pm

Trying to tour the mansion

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:56 pm

I played a lot of pinball in college, no doubt because I spent a disproportionate amount of time at my frat house, whose furniture included a pinball machine, one of the old electromechanical ones on which 25,000 points entitled you to a free game. But after college I didn’t play much until around the fall of 1992, when I wandered into College Hill Sundries and discovered Williams/Bally’s Addams Family pinball machine.

And fell in love.

For starters, I’d loved the Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston movie, from which most of the game’s graphics and sounds were taken. (The game incorporated a number of quotes from the movie, all of which made perfect sense in the context of pinball.) But the machine also entranced me purely as a pinball game: It had a wide variety of targets and a large number of skill levels — it rewarded skill and technique.

Alas, Addams Family eventually was replaced by another machine, and not coincidentally, I haven’t spent much time in College Hill Sundries since. But I’ve dreamed ever since about that pinball machine. In fact, I once told Ann that when my midlife crisis rolled around, if I could find an Addams Family machine in good working order, I’d buy it and just forget about the sports car. I found a few on eBay from time to time, but since the kids have come along the price was a bit out of my reach.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I got a new computer and was first exposed to the “Space Cadet” pinball game built into Windows 2000 and XP. (I’ve worked on W2K at work for quite a while, but our systems folks’ installs omit the games. I wonder why.) As a pinball game, it’s not all that, but as a computer simulation of a pinball game I found it excellent, quite realistic. (There are even keys you can type to give the machine a little left, right or forward body English, although not one for a 3-foot air drop, which the machine in my frat house underwent from time to time.)

And that’s when it hit me: If they could make a computer simulation of a generic pinball game, maybe they could make one of Addams Family.

Maybe they already had.

As it happened, I did a feature on pinball for the paper back in 1993 and spoke then with a flack for the parent company of Williams/Bally, himself a pinball freak. So I knew somebody in the bidness. I resolved to call this guy and find out if the company had licensed computer versions of its pinball games (and if not, give them the idea for free).

Unfortunately, the parent company shut down its pinball business in 1999, the better to concentrate on its more profitable casino-gaming business. (When I wrote about pinball in ’93, the industry was enjoying a resurgence, but apparently computer/video games won out, as I had suspected they would.)

But this quest ain’t over. Somebody still has rights to the game. And if I can find that somebody, maybe I can interest them in a computer version of Addams Family (and, for that matter, the entire Williams/Bally catalog, which can’t be doing the rights holder much good at the moment otherwise).

“Don’t torture yourself,” Morticia Addams would say. But who says I can’t take it with me? The last ball hasn’t drained yet, so I’m going to keep flipping.

Hunter S. Thompson: RIP

Filed under: Sad,Salute! — Lex @ 6:02 am

Holy cow. Thompson committed suicide with a shotgun by shooting himself.

I’m not awake enough yet to be able to say anything coherent about this.

UPDATE: Like a lot of people, I first read “Hell’s Angels” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” when I was at an impressionable age — in my case, ninth grade, where my lab partner pressed them upon me (thanks, Julie!).

Unlike a lot of people, I don’t worship the ground Thompson walked on. His early work was full of the sexism that underlay a lot of the free-love generation’s ethos (Ginmar, newly returned from Iraq — welcome back, Ginmar! — has more to say on this), and his later work was pretty repetitive.

One of my favorite pieces was his take on the Pulitzer divorce case, which I recall reading in Rolling Stone. It had many admirable qualities, but I particularly remember two: his incisive description of Roxanne Pulitzer as “a woman who clearly liked to sleep late” (I think that is a direct quote) and his observation about servants: They will be the downfall of the wealthy because it’s hard to find one who’s smart enough to make the beds but not smart enough to wonder why they’re full of naked people every morning. (There are days, however, when I think such servants probably could be recruited in bulk from the White House press corps, and no, that’s not a Jeff Gannon joke.)

But if Thompson is remembered for nothing else, he’ll be remembered for his portrayal of Richard M. Nixon. The worst in Nixon brought out the best in Thompson, both in terms of his outrage and in terms of his love and devotion, never far below the surface no matter how cynical he acted, for the best that this country can represent. No one, not even Nixon’s friends and relatives, got Nixon the way Thompson did, and I suspect students of American history and politics will read Thompson’s work for as long as the field survives.

That said, I am horrified that he chose to commit suicide in such a messy way, leaving his wife and son to deal with the physical and psychic mess. I’ve learned not to judge people with suicidal tendencies too harshly — they’re sick by definition except, perhaps, for those facing painful, terminal illness — but his decision is, at best, horrible. It is not “fitting.” It is not romantic. In effect if not in intent, it is a permanent brutalization of those closest to him, and it will stain his legacy.

UPDATE, 2/22: OK, I guess I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather laugh than cry, but Giblets says Hunter Thompson isn’t dead, he has only departed in search of bigger game. And I guess he’ll need the armament because whenever Emily follows on after him, she (agreeing w/me re HST’s chosen exit) fully intends to kick his butt.

Sunday, February 20, 2005 5:38 pm

Finally …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 5:38 pm

… I can talk publicly about what we’ve known officially since December and personally for a long time before that: Susan Ladd is one hell of an editor. But even better than that, she’s a loyal and devoted friend. And, of course, she and her husband, Herb Everett, get it.

Saturday, February 19, 2005 7:43 pm

Glenn Reynolds can be an ass …

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 7:43 pm

… but no one deserves this. Best wishes to him and his wife on what I hope will be her full and speedy recovery.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 8:03 pm

Rage, rage against the dying of the light corporate honchos

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:03 pm

You know those CBS execs whose resignations were asked for in the wake of the Boccardi/Thornburgh report into the “60 Minutes II” segment on the president’s National Guard service? They ain’t quittin’. They’re still getting’ paid. And they might be about to sue the network and/or some of its top execs for libel.

Up ’til now, I’d thought there was no possible way this could have gone worse for CBS. Guess I was wrong.

Uh, stay tuned?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 6:01 am

” … the belief in things not seen … “

Filed under: Love — Lex @ 6:01 am

Meant to post this yesterday in honor of Valentine’s Day and forgot.

The Edge Foundation asked a bunch of smart people, “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” David Buss, a psychologist at the University of Texas, responded:

True love.I’ve spent two decades of my professional life studying human mating. In that time, I’ve documented phenomena ranging from what men and women desire in a mate to the most diabolical forms of sexual treachery. I’ve discovered the astonishingly creative ways in which men and women deceive and manipulate each other. I’ve studied mate poachers, obsessed stalkers, sexual predators, and spouse murderers. But throughout this exploration of the dark dimensions of human mating, I’ve remained unwavering in my belief in true love.

While love is common, true love is rare, and I believe that few people are fortunate enough to experience it. The roads of regular love are well traveled and their markers are well understood by many-the mesmerizing attraction, the ideational obsession, the sexual afterglow, profound self-sacrifice, and the desire to combine DNA. But true love takes its own course through uncharted territory. It knows no fences, has no barriers or boundaries. It’s difficult to define, eludes modern measurement, and seems scientifically wooly. But I know true love exists. I just can’t prove it.

OK, that’s it for sappy romanticism. We now return you to your previously scheduled snark ‘n’ outrage.

Monday, February 14, 2005 9:49 pm

Conversion

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:49 pm

Publius at Legal Fiction has found what he considers proof of Intelligent Design.

Color me amused but still skeptical.

Sunday, February 13, 2005 5:29 pm

Lost weekend

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 5:29 pm

I started feeling cruddy again Friday afternoon and ended up staying home Friday night and missing the Triangle Bloggercon on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005 8:46 pm

Where in hell is Satan?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:46 pm

If you live in a red state, the answer won’t surprise you.

(Via Atrios)

What’s really in Popeye’s pipe?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:26 pm

Marijuana, apparently. Who knew?

If you’re job-hunting and don’t mind becoming an expatriate …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:02 am

… I hear Ireland needs geeks.

And it’s very pretty over there.

Hee

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:01 am

John Kelly of The Washington Post provides tips on how to read the Post. They apply to pretty much any daily newspaper, however. I particularly like Step 11.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2005 6:05 am

Help me out here

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 6:05 am

 

Ann has given me a wonderful early Valentine’s present: We’re going to buy a digital camera.

That’s the good news, and it is very good news indeed. The bad news is the question I face: What the heck do I do now?

Up to now I have shot all our pictures on a Nikon FG20 that probably was 20 years old when Ann gave it to me for Christmas 15 years ago. With a 35-85 macro zoom lens, it gives me some breathtaking closeups of the kids along with decent but not spectacular long shots. But it’s manual everything, and when you’re shooting kids sometimes you only get one quick chance to get the right shot, so we’re upgrading.

And unlike computer specs, on which I can recite chapter and verse, having just bought a new one, I know zipall about digital cameras. So:

What specs ought I to be looking for? What are the must-have features and what are the features that, although cool, can be forgone by someone on a budget? Are still captures from digital video of high enough quality that we should just get a digital video camera and forget about a still camera?

All help greatly appreciated, and now that I have a Flickr account, I hope to be presenting the fruits of your suggestions to you here shortly.

Monday, February 7, 2005 9:21 pm

Since she asked

Victoria: Why are you both getting all in my face?

Mommy and Daddy: Because that’s where your loose tooth is

Who’s your daddy?

Filed under: Geek-related issues — Lex @ 6:14 am

All it took was six weeks of trial and error, followed by a clean install of W2K on my kids’ PC, but they’ve now got secure, wireless, unfettered Internet access.

I mean, except for the part where they don’t have e-mail (or any other functionality besides Web browsing) and the only site they can go to is the Disney Channel. Hee.

Mr. Sun is going to hell …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:12 am

… but he’s leaving the rest of us laughing all the way.

Sunday, February 6, 2005 10:31 pm

Scripture lesson

Filed under: Fun,Hooper,Victoria — Lex @ 10:31 pm

Victoria (reading from sheet): “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Hooper: NO, Sissy! “It’s, ‘Thomas! You are a Very Useful Engine!’”

Saturday, February 5, 2005 10:14 pm

Empathy much?

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 10:14 pm

Victoria came to me in tears last night. I asked her what was wrong, and this is what she said:

“Granny brought me a new dress, and I don’t like it but I can’t tell her that because I don’t want to hurt her feelings and I don’t know what to do. It’s so frustrating, Daddy — I don’t know where my path is trying to lead me. I don’t know what God wants me to do.”

No, she didn’t break my heart. My heart broke for her.

Friday, February 4, 2005 7:47 pm

My first and probably only political endorsement

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:47 pm

Groundbreaking musician and darned good detective-novel author Kinky Friedman is running for governor of Texas because he needs more closet space and the governor’s mansion can deliver. That’s as good a reason as any, a sentiment reflected in his campaign slogan, “Why the hell not?”

Who else is running? Who cares? I have no idea whether he’ll be any good (and, because it’s not my state, I don’t care). But I know he’ll be entertaining.

What good is throat singing if you’ve squeezed both lungs out between your ribs from trying so hard not to laugh out loud in public?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:45 pm

My friend Andy and I are both fans of books by and about the genial mad scientist Richard Feynman, including a biography by a close friend of Feynman’s, “Tuva or Bust: Richard Feynman’s Last Journey,” which tells the story of Feynman’s quest to find some Tuvan throat singing before he died.

Apparently, there was some of that on the menu at a recent concert in Washington, and Sue was there to tell us about it. And her account is much funnier than The Washington Post’s.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005 9:46 pm

Mr. Meticulous

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 9:46 pm

Just in case you were laboring under the delusion that things here at Chez Blog on the Run hum along like a well-oiled machine, be advised, particularly if you’re a real-life friend or relative, that our first batch of Christmas cards went out … um, tomorrow.

Filed under: Ew. — Lex @ 9:33 pm

TO: Anyone who is, in any way, involved in the culinary arts, or the creation, production, archiving and/or distribution of any works of print or electronic media pertaining thereunto.
FROM: Lex
DATE: 2/2/05
RE: Carrot cake

Whatever else the above-mentioned foodlike item might be, it is NOT. DESSERT.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

The groundhogs must die

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:33 pm

So says Giblets, anyway, and who are we mortals to disagree?

Paradox

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:57 pm

Don’t get me wrong — I love both the personal and professional blog versions of Stacy/Sekimori, and if I ever had to find someone to design a Web site, she’d probably be the first person I’d e-mail.

But isn’t this a contradiction?

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