Apr 26

Friday Five: Hobbies

This week’s Friday Five is about pastimes and avocations.
1. What are your hobbies? I used to have more, but the only one that has really survived the time pressures of parenting and working full-time is my fascination with games. Originally, it was just role-playing games (primarily D&D), but in recent years I’ve become rather obsessed with board and card games, too.
2. Do you collect anything? If so, what? No. In fact, I’ve never understood the collector’s urge — the desire to acquire things just to display them, or to seal them away in a climate-controlled vault to protect their resale value. I try never to buy anything that I don’t intend to use.
3. Is there a hobby you’re interested in, but just don’t have the time/money to do? Singing. I’ve been active in choral music on and off through the years. In the mid-Nineties I was active in the Concert Singers of Cary for several years and enjoyed it immensely, but dropped out because of the grueling rehearsal schedule and the fact that I was spending so little time at home. Eventually, I’ll go back to singing in some way, probably by joining a church choir or a barbershop group.
4. Have you ever turned a hobby into a moneymaking opportunity? No.
5. Besides web-related stuff (burbs, rings, etc.), what clubs do you belong to? At the moment, only one: TAPIT, the Palm user group that meets monthly in Cary.

Apr 21

Do the math

When George W. Bush took office in January 2001, there were reports that the outgoing Clinton staffers vandalized the White House. These reports were denied by the Clinton administration, but have recently been confirmed by the GAO.
Here’s what has me confused: one of the examples of vandalism cited in the GAO report is that “as many as 75 computer keyboards had to be replaced ? at a cost of more than $5,000 ? because Clinton staffers had broken off the W keys.” OK, let’s ignore the “as many as” and “more than” qualifiers and assume that exactly 75 keyboards were replaced, at a cost of exactly $5000. That works out to $67 per keyboard.
Where is the White House buying computer equipment? Of the sixteen keyboards for sale on the Best Buy website, only the four most expensive have prices over $60. And that’s if you buy only one of them at list price. The federal government, which buys items like keyboards by the truckload, presumably pays wholesale prices for them, probably with a hefty discount.
So how does the White House end up paying $67 for a keyboard when I, a lone consumer, can get one for $12.99 at Best Buy (and for 99 cents at Computer Surplus Outlet)?

Apr 19

Friday Five: The small screen

Set your TiVo to record the Friday Five, because this week it’s all about television.
1. What’s your favorite TV show and why? I don’t have one at the moment, because I’ve been watching very little TV in recent months. It’s not that I’m not interested, just that I don’t have time. There are several shows that I’m interested in and that could become my favorite, if I get a chance to see more of them: Enterprise, Jeremiah, and Justice League are contenders. I really enjoyed the first season of Dark Angel, but I haven’t seen much of the second. And I used to like Buffy a lot, but it’s become a very strange show this season and I’m not sure I want to watch it any more.
Actually, I don’t think I like the question, because it requires me to pick a single best show out of all the ones I like, and I don’t want to do that. I mean, how can I choose between Law & Order and Powerpuff Girls? It is not possible to compare those shows in any meaningful way.
2. Who is your favorite television star? Sorry, but I don’t have one at the moment.
3. What was your favorite TV show as a child? I could name several shows, depending on which part of my childhood you’re interested in, but I was a big fan of Lassie when I was a preschooler. (My obsession with Star Trek actually dates from the ’70s, when I was a teenager. I saw the show during its original network run in the ’60s, but I wasn’t impressed; I preferred Lost in Space. Hey, I was only seven years old!)
4. What show do you think should have been cancelled by now? That’s a stupid question. If I don’t care for a show, I won’t watch it. But who am I to say that it ought to be cancelled? Isn’t it the height of arrogance for me to decree that because I dislike a show, nobody should be allowed to see it? I don’t expect the entire TV industry to be ruled by my personal tastes and preferences.
I will say that I gave up on ER this year. I used to love that show, but my enjoyment of it was eroded by three things: (1) departure of most of the original cast and their replacement by less capable actors, (2) steady deterioration of the writing, to the point that the show was no longer plausible, and (3) the fact that, due to (1) and (2), I found that I no longer cared what happened to the characters.
5. What new show do you hope escapes the axe this season? Too late — The Tick is already gone.

Apr 18

Not funny

Well, that was an educational experience.
Marie did not go to work on Tuesday; she was out sick with some sort of virus. By that evening, she was feeling better, but I was coming down with the same thing. It’s the sort of virus that makes you unwilling to travel more than six feet from a bathroom. It pretty much turns you inside out for a day, then goes away. I was ill with it all Tuesday night and most of Wednesday.
The first symptom to manifest itself was severe abdominal cramps. It felt like someone was grabbing handfuls of my guts and twisting them in opposite directions. When I described the sensation to Marie and Ruth, they confirmed my worst suspicion: this is what they go through every month. It is a credit to their compassionate nature that they actually listened sympathetically to my groans of agony and pleas that they find some quick and effective means of killing me. The temptation to laugh their heads off must have been considerable.
I don’t think I’ll ever laugh at a PMS joke again as long as I live.

Apr 12

Friday Five: Eating out

This week’s Friday Five is all about restaurants.
1. What is your favorite restaurant and why? Anyplace where I can get lots of vegetables. I love Chinese restaurants that have an all-you-can-eat buffet, and steak houses (such as Golden Corral) that offer the same thing. Cafeterias are good too. Why? Because I’m on the Weight Watchers plan, and I can eat a lot more vegetables than anything else within the limitations of my diet.
2. What fast food restaurant are you partial to? Chick-fil-A and Subway. Since I started on Weight Watchers, those are just about the only fast-food chains I set foot in.
3. What are your standards and rules for tipping? 15% for decent service. More for exceptional service, and somewhat less for an all-you-can-eat buffet format, because that’s basically self-service. Perhaps I should reconsider that, though, because the waitstaff still have to refill drinks and replaced used plates with fresh ones.
4. Do you usually order an appetizer and/or dessert? I always like to start with a salad. If a diet-friendly soup is available, I’ll sometimes order that too. But never dessert. Restaurants never have diet-friendly desserts, and I usually don’t have room left for it anyway.
5. What do you usually order to drink at a restaurant? Water. Except at Chick-fil-A, which is the only restaurant I know of that has Diet Dr. Pepper on their fountain. I’ll occasionally order hot tea in a Chinese restaurant if the weather is cold. And since acquiring the coffee habit, I like to finish with a cup or two.
I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry now. Is it lunchtime yet?

Apr 07

Deer in the headlights

Yikes! Thanks to InstaPundit, my name and the URL of this blog are now posted on a site that gets tens of thousands of hits per day. This probably means that some InstaPundit readers will come here looking for distinguished commentary on a par with Dropscan Digest, Inappropriate Response, or Libertarian Samizdata. Boy, are they going to be disappointed. In my defense, I can only say that I never expected to find my name listed in such august company. Glenn Reynolds asked for e-mail from people who were inspired by him to start blogs of their own, and I responded just because I wanted him to know, not necessarily the whole world.
I started this blog as an outlet for random musings, and perhaps to amuse the few friends and family members who knew about it. Unlike most of the other blogs in Reynolds’s list, Scribings has been almost completely devoid of political commentary. This is not because I have no political opinions, but because I’m not sure anyone really cares what they are, and also because Reynolds and many other political bloggers (such as Virginia Postrel and Steven den Beste) are much better commentators than I could ever hope to be, and I despair of having anything worthwhile to add to their wisdom.
There are political issues I feel strongly about, though, and perhaps it’s time I started letting a little of that bleed into what I post here. I don’t have to make this blog a full-time political rant, but neither do I have to hide my politics as if they’re something to be ashamed of. I need to think about this.
Update: Now there’s a version of the list with hypertext links, including one that points straight here.

Apr 05

Friday Five: Day after day

This week’s Friday Five is about daily routines.
1. What are the first things that you do in the morning to start your day? Well, that’s changed in recent weeks. During my recent deadline crunch, I really needed to put in longer hours, and getting to work earlier seemed like a good idea. So I attempted to speed up my morning routine by resequencing it. I am not a morning person, and I tend to be very bleary and slow-moving until I’ve had my shower. After that I’m wide awake. My previous tendency was to put off the shower until after breakfast, which I did not eat quickly because it’s hard to prepare and eat food that you can’t see because your eyes are not, technically, open. As a result, I was often late for work.
The obvious solution: shower first thing in the morning. Once I’ve done that, I’m “over the hump” of my morning routine and ready to face the day. So now, when I hear Marie taking her shower, instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, I get up, make use of the other bathroom facilities, and step into the shower the moment she steps out, without the water ever being turned off. I know what you’re thinking: seeing as how we’re married and all, why don’t I save time and water by getting in the shower with her? Because my agonized screaming tends to upset the children. Marie takes HOT showers. If you could somehow convince her to take a live lobster in there with her, it would be ready to serve when she got out. (And very clean.)
2. What are the last things that you do at night before going to bed? Reading, typically. Even if I have no time for leisure reading during the rest of the day (which, sadly, is the case lately), I always pick up my current book-in-progress for at least a few minutes before turning off the bedside lamp.
3. What daily routine have you recently added to your day? Actually, I’ve been trying to make posting something to this blog (even if it’s only an interesting quote I’ve stumbled across) a daily occurrence. I haven’t perfectly achieved that goal, but I’m getting closer.
4. What routine do you wish you get rid of? Staying up too late surfing the Web. I really need to get more sleep.
5. What’s the one thing that makes you feel like something is missing if you don’t do it some point within your day? Breathing.

Apr 02

Letting go

One year ago today, I was laid off from my job at Alcatel. As I’ve mentioned here before, that turned out to be just about the best thing that could have happened. It freed me up at precisely the right moment to take a much better job at IBM, and it got me out of an environment that had been deteriorating for some time and was about to get much worse.
The prospect of being unemployed can be daunting, but sometimes it’s the first step toward much better employment. Before April 2 of last year, I was reflexively clinging to a job that I no longer enjoyed and that had become a dead end, just because I was afraid of the unknown. I shouldn’t have needed a layoff to shake me loose. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to admit that you’re not happy with what you have, and let go of it.

Apr 02

Rising star

I just checked my eBay feedback for the first time in a week or so, and discovered that my rating has passed 100, turning my Feedback Star from yellow to turquoise. I always wondered what it feels like when a D&D character gains a level — now I know!
Historical note: eBay later modified its hierarchy of Feedback Stars, adding a blue star (50-99 points) that comes between yellow and turquoise. So it’s no longer possible for a user’s star to turn from yellow to turquoise.

Posted in Me
Apr 01

Signs of spring

What a difference a three-day weekend makes. This afternoon, I stepped out of my office and saw, framed in the window at the far end of the hallway, a riot of color that wasn’t there on Thursday. Someone has parked a couple of extra chairs in front of that window to be moved to storage, and those chairs were silhouetted against a cloud of pink flowers: a tree in full bloom.

Later, as I walked out to the parking lot at the end of the day, I encountered daffodils blooming beside the walkway, and trees laden with white flowers among the parked cars.

Did all this happen over the weekend? Or have I just not been paying attention?