Saturday, July 21, 2007

Present location

For those to whom this information is meaningful: I'm temporarily installed back in my old bedroom at Duane "Langga" and Desiree Liong's house. Once I've switched jobs in mid-August, I'll probably move into some cheap apartment in close to the Galleria...probably, since I'm not too picky about neighbors, in a part of town south of 59 where I will both save lots of money on rent and also sharpen back up my rusting Spanish. (I mean, after all, I'm still obviously going to have to pay the rent on that five-bedroom if I don't want the family kicked out of it -- which I don't, and that includes Dessie -- so there's little point in spending a bunch on my own digs.)

Not much use calling me on the good ol' cell phone until tomorrow afternoon when I go back to the house to pick up the cell phone charger...oddly, the cell phone doesn't continue to work without it. Who knew? (Hey, what can I say, I'm in software, not hardware.)

Picked up Deathly Hallows this afternoon at HEB, of all places, and settled in tonight to read it. Danae (the Liongs' twin girls will be three next week and Danae is definitely the one with the imp in her) clambered up into my lap and set out to read the book herself, apparently under the impression that it was in Braille. I moved the book way to the right so that I was holding it out of her reach to the right of the chair; she headed over to the right armrest and reached out to grab the book. I moved it the left; she clambered across my lap to the left armrest. I held my arms straight up in the air to read with my neck craned back; she stood up and jumped up and down in my lap a couple of times trying to reach it...and, um, I decided it was time to go off to the bedroom behind the door Danae can't open.

Anyway, I finished it up about ten this evening, and I have to doff my hat to Ms. Rowling: she wrote a final volume to the series that did not disappoint. This brings to a successful conclusion one of the most remarkable sustained pieces of work I've ever seen -- for of course the seven books together are a single piece of work. I would give more specific reactions except that I don't want to play spoiler and I know lots of people are still waiting for their turn at the family copy.

Well, off to pray for the family and then go to sleep.

I wish you all knew the Liongs. Nobody ever had truer friends.

Nice timing

Moved out of the house last night -- Dessie had taken all the kids to her mother's house in Fredericksburg while I was at work; so I didn't even get to say good-bye. In fact I haven't seen Kinya and Sean and Merry at all yet since before their mom's decision; they were already in Fredericksburg. Kind of a bleak evening packing up in the silence. Even the dog was somewhere else...which just goes to show there's a silver lining in every cloud, I suppose.

Telling the kids wasn't much fun, either. I'll respect their privacy and not give you their reactions.

So I was grateful that the appointed Psalms for this morning were the 20th and 22nd. I needed that. And it reminded me of a thirty- or forty-year-old Bill and Gloria Gaither song I hadn't thought of in years. Took me a while to recall the words even of one verse, but it came back eventually...

When you've knelt beside the rubble
Of an aching, broken heart
When the things you've built your life on fell apart
You're not the first to be acquainted
With sorrow, grief or pain
But the Master promises sunshine after the rain

Hold on, My child,
Joy comes in the morning
Weeping only lasts for the night
Hold on, My child,
Joy comes in the morning
The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight...

Requiescat in pace

I hate to part with this loyal, long-time (fifteen years) member of the family; but his day is done.

Well done, thou good and faithful T-shirt.

Many, many thanks to Steve Dobblestein (Kasia's godfather), who long ago spotted this shirt and said to himself, "I know a classics major who just has to have that." So the next time I showed up for our weekly Bible study, I had a gift waiting.

Haven't gotten many gifts over the years I've enjoyed more. (I am, the alert reader perceives, a man of simple pleasures.)

Oh, almost forgot:

"If you can read this, you're over-educated."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lots of good reasons to love America

A few reasons second-generation Russian immigrant Karol loves America (from an enjoyable account of her induction as an American citizen a quarter-century ago), reasons that will I think be heartily seconded by people who have spent a reasonable amount of time abroad:

I love (and I know this is going to be seen as a minor thing but go live elsewhere and you'll know that it's not) that things work here. They function. You can order a burger in the middle of the night. You can't order much anywhere else in the world and certainly not after dark. You can call a toll free number for almost everything. In Britain, you have to call something like a 1-900 number at some ridiculous rate just to find out the train schedule. There is airconditioning in every office building, car, bus, train, store and museum. I almost died in the Louvre in August. [More than 10,000 elderly Parisians in literal fact did die in the Paris heat wave of 2003. -- Peril] Nobody looks at you funny when you order something off the menu with a few changes. You can't imagine the glares I got in Europe when I would just ask for no mayo. You can return clothing to big department stores, with no receipt, months after you've bought something. Customer service is an oxymoron in most other countries. The same department stores are open until around 8pm most days, 10pm during the holiday season. Don't even imagine it's like that anywhere else. 5pm is a stretch. My brother's 20 year old girlfriend is making $15 an hour at her summer job as an intern. My brother is taking a history class called 'World War I' for credit at a local college for the summer even though he is a pre-med student at a different school. Trying doing either of those last two things anywhere else in the world. Elsewhere, pay often goes according to age and don't even think about deviating from your subject matter at University, let alone taking classes as a different University and expecting them to count towards your degree. And on and on. It's these little things that I love the most. It's those exact things that can't be replicated, the easy way everything goes here. As I get older they are the things I appreciate most.
What I don't think George W. Bush (like Woodrow Wilson before him) has ever grasped is that this, not democracy, is what people long for. Democracy has absolutely no intrinsic value except when, and only insofar as, it goes to free people from the violence and fraud that constrains the limitless human ability to find creative ways to meet other people's needs as a way to get one's own met -- which is all the free market is. If Dubya had set out four years ago to establish safety and property rights throughout Iraq instead of trying to establish "democracy," things might be a whole lot different there today.

Or not, of course. Speculation is just that.

But the difference between how things work in America, between how good America is at making it easy for you to get the things you need and want (especially in those parts of the economy that the government doesn't run, such as Wal-Mart, as opposed to the parts of the economy that the government does dominate or heavily distort by its interference, such as public education and the health care system)...that ain't speculation. That's hard reality, baby.

The good ol' greater country on earth. Which I say even though given my druthers I'd choose to live in Kazakhstan.

HT: I'm embarrassed to say that I can't remember which blog it was that pointed me in Karol's direction. My sincere apologies to whomever I'm depriving of due recognition.

Thought he was talking about me for a moment

Jeff "Protein Wisdom" Goldstein describes Skip Bayless, who (I regret to say, since I find Bayless to be, based on his columns, a mean-spirited moron) is apparently my long-lost twin brother:

"...a man so white that he scares the s*** out of ghosts."

O tempora! O mores!

Keeping in mind that Pride and Prejudice is one of the three books (along with the Bibla and the Divine Comedy that I would take to the proverbial desert island, and that I can reel off great big massive chunks of it verbatim, you can imagine that I perceived in this story the unmistakable harbinger of Armageddon.

Another, much more cheerful, announcement

I accepted today an offer to go to work at British an employee, of all things.

I've enjoyed consulting and you make a lot of money at it, but this is a golden opportunity that I just couldn't pass up. What BG is doing is fascinating stuff. Futhermore, I know everybody on the team I'll be joining and it's a dream team of people with whom I've worked before -- and they're some of the very best people I've ever worked with. And the salary and benefits actually came in at a level that surprised me and allowed me to justify walking away from consultancy, which I had not expected ever to do.

The offer is signed, sealed and delivered, subject to a background check and a drug test. As long as the background check doesn't object to speeding tickets and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy (from the house debacle, for long-term readers who know what I'm talking about), and as long as the drug test doesn't include a test for excessive coffee consumption, all should be well.

I have very much enjoyed working at bp over the years -- it has easily been my favorite of all the corporate working environments I've seen over the years, including what I've seen at the many client sites where I consulted during the 250,000-annual-travel-miles years when I was platinum on both American and Continental. But there's a four-year cap on how long you can work at bp as a consultant, and I know their pay scales for employees and know that they have no chance of keeping me on as an employee, through no fault of their own. (H.R. is a universe of its own, and you just have to take those folks' rules as givens, like the weather or gravity.) I'm going to have to leave in a few months anyway, and I find it hard to believe that another opportunity like this BG one is going to present itself dutifully eight or nine months from now.

The only real drawback was going to be the significantly increased commute; but recent events having transpired, I find that my housing options are suddenly all but infinitely increased. I can pretty much live, now, wherever I bloody well please, including within a few blocks of BG.

This gives me a month to indulge myself by driving back and forth in front of the security guards in the bp parking lots talking ostentatiously into my cell phone with my unlatched seatbelt fluttering lightly in the breeze through the open, no, just teasing.

Seriously, bp has been a great place to be, and I would have had no problem staying there for years to come, had long-term consultancy been an option and had this BG offer not fallen into my lap. Great place, great people, great atmosphere. In many ways I'm sorry to leave it.

So, um, quite a week I'm having here.

An announcement

I have throughout my marriage worked hard to protect my wife's reputation, and as far as I could to speak well of her to others; and so what I'm about to say may come as a shock to many of my friends.

Dessie is divorcing me, something she's periodically threatened to do since very early in our marriage.

I'm not going to say anything else, or discuss this subject in detail, now or ever. I cannot possibly present my side of the last eighteen years while still honoring the mother of my children, which she will always be. So let me just say this:

I want to urge my friends and family not to pass judgment on my wife. The last couple of years I have simply not been able to deal with the years of accumulated frustration and pain and sense of loss in a godly manner. I can look back on the eighteen years and point to a long list of ways in which I was not a good husband, certainly not a good husband for Dessie specifically. I don't know whether or not there is a Mr. Right out there for Dessie but I certainly wasn't it. It doesn't surprise me that Dessie doesn't want to live with me any more.

Please pray for me, that I can handle this in a godly manner. And pray for my children.

Being myself with my own way of coping, I would drop a joke in at this point; but I think whistling so loudly past the graveyard is just a little bit too inappropriate even for me.

I'll be all right, by the way.

Monday, July 16, 2007

50 Reasons Lord of the Rings Sucks Dept.

The Princess is directed to pay special attention to this list. Samples (not necessarily the funniest, just want to give you a feel for the general tone):


#9. Violence.

Give me one reason that story couldn't have been told without all the fighting.


#13. Did someone say plot hole?

Liv Tyler's character is seen easily defeating nine strong supernatural beings, even though she is clearly a woman.

#14. The Battle Droid Syndrome.

The mutated muscular soldiers of Mordor turned out to be hilariously ineffective fighters, a dozen of them held off by a single dying human. Apparently they made the beasts by crossing Orcs, Goblins and the French.


#17. Invisible Implausibility.

Every time Frodo or Bilbo went invisible with the ring they should have also gone BLIND. Your eyes cannot function unless light is reflected off the cornea. If light passes through it (as must be the case with invisibility) sight is no longer possible. Also, rings do not turn you invisible.

#18. The Asbestos Wizard, II.

The giant fire beast thing at the end of part 1 was breathing a firey breath hot enough to send heat-distortion waves through the air. The sheer temperature of the air should have burned off Gandalf's beard and eyebrows. None of my reading on evolutionary biology reveals a single reason why a particular race of humans would develop unflammable facial hair as this would provide practically no advantage in either survival or mating.


#38. Realism, schmealism.

Liv Tyler's immortal elf volunteers to give up her eternal life for a single romance with a human man. Could any man really be that well endowed? I find it unlikely.

#39. Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

The most advanced civilization is that of the elves, which are long-haired, new-age types? Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but modern science has proven that in any modern civilization, hippies would be extinct.

#40. Too many notes.

No movie should be over two hours long. Did we need that whole thing in the mine in part 1? What about that almost-infinite battle scene in part 2? Didn't it seem like they were just adding pointless scenes in the middle to pad it? It's like they decided beforehand they wanted three hours for each film and used filler to flesh them out.

#41. Too many notes, II.

I just want to re-emphasize the above point. There is no reason entertainment can't be concise.


#50. What's that smell?

As bad as the Lucasfilm internet leaks were with the last Star Wars trilogy, the filmmakers of Lord of the Rings allowed the paperback novelizations onto shelves years in advance As if we needed any less of a reason to go see it.
So of course none of us should be shocked that in the years since this particular parody was posted on an obvious comedy site whose very name is, the author has been the target of "over 2,000 angry e-mails and over 50,000 angry message board posts, decrying [the of course non-existent] Dr. Oxford's horrendous judgement in film." [The Peril here interjects an editorial cackle of delight.]

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How I Know There Is No God

Because if God existed, and He were a good and just God, then he would not have created a world with such simple, satisfying pleasures as, say, bare feet in the early morning on cool, smooth stone.

At least, not if He were also going to create mosquitos.

That is your theological update for today.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Prelude to an upcoming post

I think I'm going to do a post on mis-specification of problems as it relates to politics. As a bit of preparation, here's you some homework you can do before the main post is written. If you do the homework, I think you'll find it much easier to understand what I'll be getting at in that post.

A gentleman named James L. Adams wrote, some time back, an excellent book called Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas. I highly recommend it, and much of what I'll be trying to express in the post with respect to politics, Adams has dealt with at length in the much wider universe of human problem-solving in general.

Conceptual Blockbusting starts with the following puzzle. Your homework: see if you can solve the puzzle. Make a note of how long you worked on it and what method you used to try to solve it.

One morning, exactly at sunrise, a Buddhist monk began to climb a tall mountain. A narrow path, no more than a foot or two wide, spiraled around the mountain to a glittering temple at the summit. The monk ascended at varying rates of speed, stopping many times along the way to rest and eat dried fruit he carried with him. He reached the temple shortly before sunset. After several days of fasting and meditation he began his journey back along the same path, starting at sunrise and again walking at variable speeds with many pauses along the way. His average speed descending was, of course, greater than his average climbing speed. Prove that there is a spot along the path that the monk will occupy on both trips at precisely the same time of day.
Good luck!

Monday, July 02, 2007

What's scary is how many people will actually click on the link

This highly profession and thoroughly believable e-mail purporting to be from Microsoft showed up in my hotmail account today. Fortunately I am psychic and thus divined that all was not entirely kosher...

Hello! Hackers discovered new bugs on Windows XP versions. Now, your
computer is very vulnerable to this attacks,

that`s why Microsoft Corporation relased a new patch to protect your

If you do not install this patch, the hackers can attack your computer,
break into your sistem and steal passwords

or secret informations. In USA over 11,000,000 computers were attacked!
Those computers didn`t have installed

protection patch!

Please download the patch and install it on your computer now!

DOWNLOAD PATCH: => http://www. patch.exe


Thank you!

Note: I garbled up the link some just to make sure nobody silly...well, clicks on the link.