Week of 2 March 2009
Update: Sunday, 8 March 2009 11:17 -0500
Urk. While Barbara was cleaning up the workroom yesterday, she found
the LaserJet 5P toner cartridge I'd been looking for a year ago. I
ended up buying a Brother HL5250DN laser printer, which I'm happy with,
but this means we now have two functional printers. The HP LaserJet 5P
is now something like 14 years old. It's gone through a total of two
toner cartridges during that span, so the one Barbara found yesterday
should take it up to the 20 year mark. Or more, since our very light
printing demands will now be shared across two printers, assuming I
decide to connect up the LJ5P again.
we had the first significant snow we've had in a long time. There are
about 3" (7.5 cm) on the ground here, with amounts ranging up to 8" (20
cm) across the region. Barbara is getting ready to leave for work now.
She'll put her Trooper in four-wheel drive, and shouldn't have any
problems, assuming everyone else drives sanely. There probably won't be
much traffic on the roads. The street in front of our house is still
pristine, and the news is showing very light traffic even on major
The kids get another day off from school today. The roads are pretty
well cleared, but patches of black ice remain. The lows last night were
around 12 °F (-11 °C), with wind chills down around 0 °F (-18 °C).
That's extremely cold for around here.
Our friends Mary and Paul
spent the weekend in Tampa, where Mary was participating in a Marathon.
They were to fly back yesterday morning, but their flight was canceled.
The next flight they could have gotten was to arrive late this evening.
That was a nonstarter, because they both had to be at work this
morning. So they rented a car and drove home yesterday, dropping the
rental car at the Greensboro airport and picking up their own SUV, and
arriving home around 7:15 p.m.
This was the first significant
snow we've had since 2004. The neighborhood kids loved it. There were
three snowmen on our block, and the kids were out all day sledding
and snowboarding. I gave the dogs a chance to play off-leash in
the snow, too. Duncan didn't seem to care much for the snow, but
Malcolm had a great time. He was kind of puzzled when I threw snowballs
for him to chase and they disappeared into the snow before he could
retrieve them. He'd stick his snout into the hole where the snowball
disappeared, and then plow the snow looking for it.
I see that Apple refreshed its desktop line yesterday. I was
disappointed by the new Mac Mini, which continues to be overpriced by a
factor of two and, unfortunately, uses embedded nVidia graphics. $600
for a low-end PC with an entry-level processor, only 1 GB of memory,
and a tiny, slow hard drive--not to mention without keyboard, mouse, or
display--is simply ridiculous. At $300, I might buy one. Or I might
not. The embedded nVidia graphics are a real cause for concern, given
the reported high failure rates of nVidia embedded video chipsets.
Cable TV companies are starting to panic.
It seems that a lot of people are doing what Barbara and I did years
ago, cutting the cord. People are finally waking up to the fact that
the so-called "triple-play" offerings are actually just triple-pay.
Cable companies want us to pay once for the data pipe, a second time
for the TV pipe, and a third time for the telephone pipe. But what's
the point to paying three times when all we really need is that data
pipe? That, and a Netflix subscription lets us watch what we want to,
when we want to, and for a lot less money.
When Paul Jones
stopped by yesterday to pick up his garage door remote, he mentioned
that his and Mary's driving radius was now up to 800 miles. In other
words, their recent bad experience with the airlines means they won't
even consider flying instead of driving for anything less than a 1,600
mile round trip. Barbara and I had a similar watershed moment with Joss
Whedon's Dollhouse. The commercials were so obnoxious that that first
episode of Dollhouse will be our last attempt to watch a
series on network television. From now on, we just won't bother to
watch until the series is out on DVD.
- GM auditors say there is "substantial doubt" that GM can survive,
something the rest of us have known for a long time. GM should have
been forced into bankruptcy long ago. Instead, our elected
representatives have thrown billions of taxpayer dollars, our dollars,
down this rathole, with billions more to come, despite the fact that
their constituents overwhelmingly oppose this bailout, not to mention
the bank bailouts, the housing bailouts, and all of the other bailouts.
And they are "representing" us how? Short of a revolution, there's
nothing that can be done to stop them for now, but mid-term elections
are coming next year. Let's throw all the bastards out.
Oh, good. I just updated Ubuntu 8.10 when prompted. It installed a
Firefox update. Now, every time I start Firefox or attempt to type in a URL, I get the following error
ASSERT: *** Search: _installLocation: engine has no file!
0:ENSURE_WARN(false,_installLocation: engine has no file!,2147500037)
the fix was pretty easy. I just fired up the package manager and told
it to reinstall Firefox and related files. A minute or so later, I was
back up and running with the latest version of Firefox working properly.
It's about time. FoxNews reports that some states are reconsidering abstinence-only "sex education",
one of the dumber policies enforced by the late Bush administration. No
reasonable person could question its effectiveness. In 2007, only
20,000 teenage girls became pregnant in North Carolina. Why, without
abstinence-only sex education, we'd probably have had 20,000 teenage
girls become pregnant. But at least it keeps the religious nutters
happy. Of course, many of their daughters were among that 20,000.
I've always wondered exactly what the curriculum outline for abstinence-only sex education might be. Probably something like:
Day 1: Just don't do it.
Day 2: Just don't do it.
Day 3: Just don't do it.
the religious nutters are living in a dream world. Of course, we
already knew that. In their world, their sweet daughters--no one seems
to worry about the sons--remain as pure as the driven snow until they
marry, at which point they probably have sex only once per child and,
ideally, don't enjoy it.
These folks would certainly be stunned
to learn that many early teenage girls consider fellatio a normal
activity for the second date, if not the first date. And that many of
them engage in unprotected anal sex, in the bizarre belief that they're
retaining their virginity by doing so.
religious nutters assume that if they don't talk about sex to their
kids, the kids won't realize they can be having sex. Wrong. Kids are
doing it and will continue doing it regardless. That's a given. The
trick is to make sure they avoid pregnancies and STDs. And the way to
do that is to tell them the truth and make sure they have easy access
to condoms, birth-control pills, and other preventative measures.
disturbing aspect of this issue is that many school systems have either
implemented or are considering implementing a dual-track system,
allowing the parents to decide whether their kids take useless
abstinence-only classes or classes that provide real information.
Although I'm all in favor of parental choice, the obvious problem with
this is that the innocent children of religious nutters are going to
suffer disproportionately from pregnancies and STDs. Of course, that's
already true. The more religious the family background, the more likely
kids are to get in trouble.
One of the problems with reading books by superb authors is that it
makes books by less capable authors look even worse by comparison.
Over the last week or so, I've been re-reading the Vor Saga books by
Lois McMaster Bujold, who is certainly in the top rank of SF authors.
In fact, I think Bujold is the best SF author I've read, or at
least tied for best, and that list includes Heinlein.
Then, last night, I started reading Cruel Intent
by J. A. Jance, who is normally an excellent mystery author. It was not
just bad, but so bad I couldn't believe J. A. Jance wrote it, or that
she'd allow it to be published with her name on it. At first, I thought
Jance's book was suffering by comparison with the slew of Bujold books
I'd just read, but that isn't the case. Jance's new book is simply bad.
Poor writing, poor characterization, and poor plotting. It also suffers
from the technical incompetence common to nearly all mystery authors
who attempt to make computer hacking a key plot element.
give up on Jance, because she's written dozens of good mysteries and
will probably write many more. She's certainly capable of doing so. I
think in this case her agent and her editor failed her. They should
have told her flat out that this book was so far below her usual
standard that she really didn't want her name on it. If it was
published at all, it should have been published under a different name.
Oh, well. I have plenty of other books on my TBR stack.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by