Blogs

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davew's picture

Why I Should Be President Now!

Forget all that namby-pamby stuff like "steadfastness" and "leadership". How can you measure something like leadership? You can't. Clearly, objectively, and by the best science at our disposal I am a more fit for president than George W. Bush. First of all I am a full inch taller. How can you be expected to stare down all those scary mideast types if you have to stare up at them? It just doesn't work. Maybe this is why Bush is usually photographed sitting down or behind a podium. Do you want a foreign policy that is completely dependent on imported lifts? Think about it.

I am also a full 40 lbs lighter than Bush's staggering 191 lb mass. His doctors claim he's "in good shape for a 60 year old." He's not in good shape for a 60 year old heifer! As leaner, lither president I would be far more able to dive onto Air Force One in case of a terrorist attack or dive off in the case of a military revolt. Sure I'd be running like a frightened little bunny, but I'd be alive and isn't that what you want in a leader?

Lastly I totally blew him away on the SAT (566 verbal, 640 math -- pshaw). There are those who would argue correctly that at least one of our cats blew him away on the SAT, but I did it with italics and that makes all the difference my friend. There are also those who would argue that the SAT does not measure fitness for being chief executive. Poppycock! Do you want a stupid president? Of course you don't. And why else would the SAT exist except to measure smarterness? Case closed.

I suggest we commence with immediate sackings starting with Bush, then Chenney, then the speaker, and so forth. I figure it wouldn't take more than a few hundred thousand firings before they'd finally get the hint and install me with a recess appointment. Write your congressperson, burn your jockey shorts, shove a flower down the muzzle of a road-side bomb. It's gonna take smoking a lota grass roots to make this happen, people, and I'm counting on you to do what it takes. The fate of the nation and just maybe the world rests in your hands.

davew's picture

Dating for Engineers #1

Try not to explain anything on a date. If you find yourself explainng something avoid using diagrams and for goodness sake never, ever use an equation.

davew's picture

Flubba Wubba

It all started with an innocent remark on Pearl Street. Something like: "Nice tummy." What I heard was, "You are far and away the most corpulent creature I have ever seen. Are you walking next to me or inching along on your belly like Jabba the Hut?" The actual comment was different and my response wasn't quite so immediate, but seed had been planted and started to grow. It didn't help that I had recently replaced some of my trousers with the next larger size. Compounding this was I rarely weigh myself and have been quoting my last measured weight of 145lbs for I really forget how many years now. Sometimes I add in a little Kentucky windage and say 150lbs. It felt more honest because it is more than what I weighed at one time, but no more based on reality. Was it true? Was I really getting a little, what Bill Bryson referred to as, "flubba wubba?" A week ago Sunday I stepped on a scale for the first time in I really do forget how many years. I could swear I actually heard a little groan as the scale coughed up: 160lbs.

I can hear any sympathy, and perhaps interest, I had cultivated up to this point packing its bags and heading for Toledo, but bear with me for a minute. Yes, this is not exactly fat for a six foot person. Yes, most folks I know would consider classifying this as any sort of weight problem to be delusional thinking. And yes, it puts my body mass index pretty much dead bang in the middle of the normal range. It has more to do with me though. In high school and college I was skinny. In my 20s and 30s this gave way to thin and then slender. Now I'm rubbing shoulders with average. Plus, in spite of an increasing girth, I have a thin persons build: long limbs only lightly seasoned with muscle and a rib cage that could fit comfortably inside most microwave ovens. Since I tend to add fat to my belly first it doesn't take much extra before I look like a python that has recently dined on VW Bug.

And it's more than just appearance. The next question I asked myself was, "How could this be? I eat I decent diet and get regular exercise." Then I did a little math. Yes I get a pretty decent diet, except for Friday lunch. Friday lunch is a weekly event that more often than not consists of a hamburger, fries, and an Arrogant Bastard. (Approximately 1.2 million calories.) And then afterwards of course I'm not going to get anything significant done that evening so maybe just do some wine and cheese and wine and cheese and a good movie. Or a bad movie. Do we have any more wine? Other than that, though, I got a pretty decent diet except for Saturday and Sunday. These are big eat at home nights with beer and wine and maybe a martini and appetizers and damn the calories because I have been so good the rest of the week I deserve it besides I still weigh a slender 145. Other than that the diet is pretty good except we frequently go out at least one night a week for pizza or pub grub. So when all was said and done I was eating a pretty decent diet about three days out of seven. That would certainly explain some weight gain. A gerbil could bulk up behaving like this.

So I did what any excessively left-brained engineer would do, I consulted my doctor for a safe and effective diet program. (Pause for laughter.) So I did what any excessively left-brained engineer would do, I swore off food and drink and hit the internet. It seemed the most common advice was to cut back about 1600 calories consumed in 5 small meals, try to ratchet up the exercise a bit, and don't attempt to lose more than a pound a week. That would be fifteen weeks. Yikes. In a purely Catholic twist I decided to give up all of the thing I liked the most until I had accomplished my first goal of losing 10 lbs. After trying to convince my conscience that mashed sweet potatoes with raisins were really the food I liked the most, and losing, I made a more sensible choice. No beer. No wine. No martinis. This goes counter to all good advice which says you should never use calories as a reward for successful dieting, but screw them. What does the internet know anyway?

So it has been about a week and a half now, and the results have been surprising. Fortunately I have done enough reading to know that the rather dramatic drop in the first week is a lot of water, some lean body mass, and a little fat. At least it lets me know that something is happening though. Like I needed a scale to tell me that. What was a little hard to get used to is being hungry all the time. I mean it. While I am eating I am hungry. After I finish a meal I am hungry. It's like the itch underneath a plaster cast. You just can't scratch it any more. Unlike an itch, it is possible to tune it out. It becomes just the way things are. Background noise. Meals become clock driven rather than hunger driven. Hunger driven meals would lead to non-stop eating for a few days which probably isn't much of a diet.

What I didn't expect but probably should have was a great increase in a sense of well being. I am more awake in the morning and in the evening and throughout the day. I find myself telling more puns. This might be considered less a sign of increased health and more a sign of defective mental health, but I'm pretty sure in my case it is a good sign. Everyone on a diet claims they feel great. I just figured it was their way of trying to rationalize feeling really horrific in the pursuit of a greater good. Now I'm a believer. Or at least equally deluded.

There is one last effect that I suppose stands to reason, but I didn't notice it in the literature. My average resting pulse has dropped from 64 to 56. I have heard that reduce calorie intake leads to a reduced metabolic rate which might imply a reduced heart rate. (I have noticed the opposite where a large meal at bed time will keep my heart running at a decent clip for hours. Not racing, just running.) I have read where it is important to keep up the exercise or your body in an effort to conserve energy will try to make you curl up on the couch and watch Oprah all day long. It's either this or I'm heading into a diabetic coma. That'll put a crimp in the old blog.

davew's picture

Toilaerobics

The secret to living a rewarding and fulfilling life is to make the best use of our up time as possible so we can enjoy our down time as much as possible. The secret to maximizing up time is combining unrelated activities. Millions of Americans have figured out that instead of merely driving and concentrating on the road, they can drive and chit chat on a cell phone at the same time. This way when they arrive at work, rather than wasting time on useless water cooler banter, they can surf the web. Instead of merely grocery shopping they can argue with their spouses, discipline their children, and practice serpentine walking at the same time. Sort of.

In the spirit of this I offer Toilaerobics. Why fritter away valuable throne time with People or National Geographic magazines? You are not going to remember any of that crap anyway. Why not get a good workout?! In mere tens of minutes a day you can have rips in places on your body that most weight lifters would have never thought about ripping. In my soon to be released double-sided DVD includes step by step instructions with a certifiable Toilaerobic instructor. Side one, called Number One, includes running in place while squeezing your knees together (a warm up exercise rarely seen outside of elementary school), deep pee bends, and jumping jacks. Side two, called Number Two, includes torso twists, toe touches, crunches, and, of course, squat thrusts. Daily practitioners have noticed a decreased need for fiber in their diet and kegels to die for. Also included on the DVD are a special "behind the scenes" video and "Hemorrhoids and Hernias: The Making of Toilaerobics". Order yours today!

Don't miss our other DF popular titles: Toileyoga and Jazzercommode.

davew's picture

Let Muted Freedom Ring

I was reading in Wall Street Journal yesterday about a foreign national who was just picked up by the government and is being detained without charge. His lawyer can't even mount a defense because the government claims that revealing the charges and the evidence would violate state secrets. At least this story didn't come out of the US for a change.

Happy Independence Day. It's a good day to ponder what freedom really means and how tyrants don't always wear a funny hat.

davew's picture

What if Star Trek Technology Was Real?

Obstetricians would certainly be looking for a new line of work.

"One to beam out, Scotty. Energize!"

davew's picture

Origins

I keep getting asked on the talk show circuit how I got to be where I am today. I figure if I just publish the story once I can keep from having to repeat the whole sordid tale endlessly. I grew up in the ghetto of Lawrence, Kansas. My dad was sentenced to life in prison when I was 9. He was doing the typical end-of-year, gee whiz science demonstration to the freshman chemistry class, and he thought that detonating a nuclear device would be fun and instructive. The KU bureaucracy has no sense of humor. It was only a little one for gosh sakes. My mom was was able to earn a little money by selling unlicensed cats and counterfeit rhubarb out of the back of a VW Microbus. It wasn't enough, however. We all had to help out so I hit the cobblestones.

I turned to busking -- starting off with some small stuff like solving quadratic equations and approximating Taylor Series for passersby. I have always had the gift of gab and could usually draw a small crowd on the subway platforms of lower downtown Lawrence. I had trouble keeping their attention in the early days, however. The tricks weren't showy enough. Parents will not hoist children onto their shoulders to see a cube root calculated to ten decimal places no matter how artistic you make it. Life on the street was a constant struggle for survival and 0.02mm mechanical pencil refills. I was constantly getting rousted by the cops and the other geek performers always beefed me for the best spots. Believe me, my shiv and TI-59 Programmable Electronic Calculator were never out of reach.

Eventually I fell into heavy computer use. The toll it took on my body was extreme, but the surge of creativity it gave me redefined the art of street performance for northeast Kansas. I put the arc secants and asymptotic projections back in the box. Out came Lyapunov and Mandelbrot sets. Mandelbrot sets blooming into Julia sets and back again with just the press of a few keys. Audiences were spellbound, but the jingle in my pocket was still distressingly light. This all changed the day Jay Leno stopped by Electric Rider to check out the TidalForce bicycle and caught my act. After I performed Fractal Foam by Graphing Accumulated Error in the Newton-Raphson Estimation of Square Roots on the Tonight Show my arc was set. I got a three book deal from John Wiley and Sons and a recurring gig on Letterman. Eventually I even had to block Larry King's number on my cell phone. I realize that the Fibre Channel firmware I work with now may seem a little sedate by comparison, but I don't have to sleep on park benches any more, and I don't have to worry about Stephen Hawking stealing my blanket.

--
No actual parents were harmed during the writing of this. My folks have been married over 50 years now and live peacefully in Iowa. My mom has never owned any cat, legal or otherwise, and my dad has never blown anything up that I know of. Well, the fire pit once, but that's another story.

Ellen's picture

Did You Say Clutch or Klutz?

Remember those days when you’d drive to the gas station and the
attendant would fill ‘er up, check your oil and tire pressure,
and clean your windows? Most of us reminisce about the good ol’
days when life wasn’t so hard, but grit our teeth and bear it
as we fill up our gas tanks. This reminiscing is merely laziness. But for
some of us, the lack of assistance at the gas tank may be
life-threatening. Don’t believe me? Well, listen to my woeful
story.

A couple of Fridays ago, I joined friends for a burger and a beer as
usual at our favorite watering hole in Longmont, Old Chicago. On the way
home, I decided to fill up my tank with gas. I never look forward to
these moments alone with my car and its gaping gas tank greedily awaiting
the gluttonous filling of its 14-gallon gas tank (I hear some SUVs have
two of these babies!) and, admittedly, I was feeling a bit laid back
after a filling lunch and a beer, ready for my afternoon nap. I went to a
new station north of where I live and not very heavily trafficked. I
hoped it would be quiet and I could come there regularly. I opened my gas
tank door, took off the cap and set it on the hook inside of the door,
then hit the Credit Card Outside option on the controls. So far, the
interface was what I was used to. The message told me to
“Remove nozzle and press start.” I removed the
nozzle, then looked around for the start button. I found it, right next
to the nozzles. I pressed it. The screen still said, “Please
Press Start.” Hmmm. I looked again, then found another red
button marked start above the row of nozzles. OK. That one must be it. I
pressed it, put the nozzle in the opening of my gas tank and pressed the
lever. Assuming all was well, I went about the business of cleaning my
windshield. I grabbed the squeegee, pulled up the wiper blades, and
scrubbed first the driver’s side, then the passengers side of
the glass, turning the squeegee over to press all the water off and
meticulously pulling straight lines across the glass.

When I was done, I walked back over to the controls. The screen said,
Thank You! And I looked at the read-out:12 gallons. Because my tank was
only half empty when I pulled up and held only 14 gallons total, I
thought that was a little odd. But it was hot and I was in a hurry to get
home and back to my current project (I was finally finishing my
brother’s wedding video from four years back), so I pulled out
the nozzle and put it back on its hook, screwed my gas cap back on, and
flapped the gas tank door closed. I then got into my car and drove away.

It wasn’t until a couple of days later when I was driving a
friend around who was visiting from another state that I looked down my
gas gauge. “That’s weird.”

“What’s that?” my friend asked.

“I thought I filled up with gas on Friday, but my tank reads
only a quarter full.” Was the gas station ripping off
people by making them pay for gas they never received? Boy was I going to
be pissed.

“Well, look at your receipt.” He leaned toward the
steering wheel and pointed. “And Your Check Engine Light is
on.” He was right. I had noticed it days before but had
procrastinated calling the mechanic.

“Yeah, yeah. I know my check engine light is on.” I
was feeling slightly incompetent by this time, and I didn’t
need to be reminded of it.

A couple of days after that, it hit me. I had never received a receipt.
(I know because I collect them and write my mileage on each one at the
time I fill up the tank, then I set it on the top of a pile of like
receipts in front of my computer waiting for the day that I will
calculate my mileage and prove that I am saving gas by not letting the
engine rev above 2rpms. My husband tells me that this behavior is a bit
pathological, but I really will calculate the mileage for each receipt
and then I’m going to input them into a spread sheet.
Maybe I’ll even create a color pie chart…oh, sorry.
Back to the story.) I had never received a receipt because I had never
pumped any gas into my car. I was horrified. What would have happened if
I hadn’t looked down at my fuel gauge until after the tank was
empty and I got stranded on the Diagonal and had to walk home in the
baking sun with no water? Shudder.

A week after that, I finally took my car to the mechanic. He discovered
that my gas cap had worn and wasn’t closing properly, and
that’s what made my check engine light turn on. I asked him if
it was unusual for the gas cap to wear that way, and he said no. But I
suspect it could be related to screwing the cap back on with an almost
empty tank on a hot day and stripping the cap threads. But ignorance is
bliss!

Moral of the story is, some of us just need a little extra help once in a
while. No big deal in an enlightened society. Didn’t someone
say you can measure the greatness of a society by how they treat the
klutz? Those fancy gas stations really do meet the needs of this large
segment of the population. Notice that I said
“needs,” not “desires.” Other
people go to full service gas stations like they were going to a spa for
an orange mango toe rub. People like me seek them out furtively from the
shadows, desperate to fill a small tank of gas without spilling gasoline
on our clothes, or leaving streaks of dirt on our wind shields. And
god-forbid we turn on our cell phones and start chatting as we fill the
tank. In fact, basic assistance is such a requirement for us folks that
insurance companies should cover each visit to the tank. What a cost
savings it will be for the insurance companies when we go to all-electric
vehicles! But then there would be electricity and outlets involved. Eek.

davew's picture

Wireless for $100 a Year


There was a time when Ellen and I were both working that I was less concerned with counting pesos. I wouldn't say that I've become a tightwad or anything, but I have become more conscious of monetary waste. Back in the old days I remember paying about $30 a month for a cell phone. It would be $30 a month until Ellen travelled. Then it would shoot up to $90 or $150. That really torqued me. Not that Ellen was using the phone, this phone was specifically for her and was bought largely for travelling, just the huge bills bugged me. I went looking for a plan that wouldn't spike so much and found a $70 plan from AT&T that gave us 400 minutes a month from practically anywhere to practically anywhere. The chances are very good that this phone cost us more in total, but on a psychological level it felt better.

This state of affairs lasted until I finally realized that last year we used a grand total of 200 minutes and paid $800 for the privilege. Yes, that's $4 a minute. No wonder wireless companies love monthly billing cycles. There had to be cheaper way. The problem is those monthly charges add up and you can't make it that much cheaper by promising to use no more than 200 minutes a year. Then I started looking into prepaid cell phones. Most of them including our current company, Cingular, want $1 a day ($360 a year) just to have and hold their precious lump of technology. Any minutes you use are on top of that. This would still be cheaper, but I still wanted more. And for less. Then I found TracFone and T-Mobile To-Go. Neither had a daily charge and both had a reasonable rate for the minutes. Dr. Laura stumps for TracFone, but who knows, they might be decent anyway. I looked up some reviews. On a scale from "love them" to "hate them" the average review came back as "run away screaming." Okay, how about T-Mobile? There were some complaints but not nearly as many. I was sold when I learned I could get 1000 minutes for $100 and they last for a year. Bingo! In a moment of recklessness I got two. One for each of us. (Okay, it wasn't quite this way. I got mine and talked Ellen into replacing her phone with one. In my mind I had already budgeted $200 and was already looking into camera lenses that cost $600, but that's another posting.)

If you're looking for a way to save money I highly recommend it. I've had the phone for a couple of months now and it works great. The minutes work anywhere T-Mobile provides service. I've looked and it covers everywhere I am likely to go. I know there are plans that cost as little as $30 a month, but think about it. That's $360 a year and you have to sign a contract and you have to undergo the credit equivalent of an anal probe just to be considered worthy. What could you do with $260? You could take me to the Frasca for a lovely dinner that's what you could do. I don't know how most of y'all use a cell phone but with me it's "Yes, officer. Stuck in a tree. No don't hurry, but please bring some beer when you come." That and, "I'll be home an hour late. Eggs and bread? No problem. Love you.". Phone calls like this add up to about 200 minutes a year. I figure I got 800 extra minutes to spend when I'm feeling especially loquacious.

davew's picture

Headline a Week from Now

World Cup Canceled for Futility
BERLIN, Germany. (DF) -

After a week of first round matches ended in a series of 0-0 and 1-1 ties where not a single team was eliminated, the World Cup Soccer Tournament was finally called off for 2006. World Cup Spokesman, Hans Gritchenberg, was philosophical. "We always new this day would come. We had hoped the popularity of NASCAR would rekindle world wide interest in boring sports, but it hasn't worked out that way." When asked about future plans he responded, "Oh, we're working on a number of things. Maybe regular wardrobe malfunctions or perhaps we can have the fans call in and vote teams off the field. We're also thinking about having them drive around the arena in little cars. France suggested just getting rid of the whole concept of "winning." Play the game for the games sake on not focus so much on the hopeless task of trying to score. We're giving all of these serious thought."

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