Everyone should wear one of these at midnight tonight while watching ABC and wishing that Dick Clark would retire for his own sake.
So who's gonna break out the funny hats tomorrow night? We're anticipating a horrific night of fireworks, because as of January 1, 2011 a whole lot of the things become illegal:
When the new law takes effect Sunday:This was the City Council showing its courage (not). Firecrackers are the biggest smoke generators, at least in my neighborhood, and the most ubiquitous of all the possible fireworks. But the Council bravely took away little kids' sparklers rather than ban the noisiest and most dangerous item in the whole catalog. It's not the fountains and sparklers which take people's fingers off, it's the explosives.
1. Consumers may still purchase firecrackers for use on New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year Day, Independence Day and for cultural uses. All other consumer fireworks, including sparklers, fountains and "paperless" fireworks, are banned from sale, purchase or use.
2. Consumers must still apply for a permit for firecrackers. They will be able to buy $25 permits for every 5,000 firecrackers purchased and be able to purchase as many permits as they want. But the new law requires they must be purchased no later than 10 days before firecrackers' use.
3. Only adults will be able to set off firecrackers. That is a change from the current law, which allows people under 18 to set off fireworks under adult supervision.
Way to go, City Council. You bowed to the fireworks merchants and the phony cultural warriors who maintain that the things are an important part of Chinese culture and shouldn't be taken away.
Dear me. There are certainly loonies in Georgia, although possibly no more than elsewhere, but this guy is a real striver toward the upper echelons.
Georgia state Rep. Bobby Franklin (R) loves to introduce far-right reactionary bills.Sir? There aren't enough gold or silver coins in the entire country for your state's taxpayers to comply with this law were it to be enacted. The US Mint only made 39,632 one-oz. gold coins in 2008. I suspect there are more than 40,000 citizens of your state; what will those who can't get their hands on one or two of those coins use to pay their taxes or buy their groceries or get their cars repaired? And how will the grocers and mechanics make change? There are no smaller denominations of gold coins made by the US Mint, as far as I can tell.
Franklin may have outdone himself with his “Constitutional Tender Act,” which would require all transactions with the state of Georgia — including the payment of taxes — to be paid with U.S. minted gold or silver coins unless the state agrees to grant a special waiver for each transaction:Pre-1965 silver coins, silver eagles, and gold eagles shall be the exclusive medium which the state shall use to make any payments whatsoever to any person or entity, whether private or governmental. Such coins shall be the exclusive medium which the state shall accept from any person or entity as payment of any obligation to the state including, without limitation, the payment of taxes; provided, however, that such coins and other forms of currency may be used in all other transactions within the state upon mutual consent of the parties of any such transaction.
In a country of 308 million people there are bound to be some crazy people, and even in the subset of the crazies some are bound to be elected officials, but you, Mr. Franklin, are headed to the top.
Back here I grumbled about the difficulty I was having replacing the kneading paddle for my bread machine.
Problem solved. I found a guy online who calls himself the Breadmaker Guru (okay, hokey, but if he walks the walk, right?). He runs a website called Breadmaker Parts Authority. To find the part you need at his site you need to know your machine's model number; you search by the model number and if there's a hit in his database you can order directly from him using PayPal, check or credit card with free shipping.
Well, I searched by model number for my Bella Cucina machine and got nothing, but I wrote him a note asking if he had an equivalent paddle to the one used by my machine. Within hours he wrote back to say he did, enclosed a link to the appropriate part on his site, and told me to carry on from there. I did, and sure enough the part looked right, so I ordered two (at $10 each, I thought I'd buy some insurance). He sent them to me Priority Mail at no charge, and they got here yesterday. They fit my machine just fine.
If you know anyone who needs bread machine parts, pass along the website info. They'll thank you for it.
ATTENTION! I have nothing to do with the Breadmaker Guru except as a satisfied customer. If you want him to respond to a question, contact him directly at his website at Breadmaker Parts Authority. Do not leave a message for him in the comment section here. He probably won't see it.
Back in a few days.
PS: What the heck has Amazon done with its "I Own It" box? How does Amazon propose to refine its recommendations if its customers can't check off the books they own?
I almost had a serious "Whoops!" event yesterday. We finished all the gifts and dinner and my sister was packing up with her family when I suddenly remembered I'd hidden the loaf of banana bread I'd made for her. Fortunately it occurred to me that I had one gift still to give. I put it into her hands and her eyes got really really big and she said "Is this banana bread?" and was very happy with the gift.
Better yet, she called this morning to say she was eating a slice with her coffee and it was wonderful.
We've rarely had any trouble with our food on Christmas Day, but today was the exception which proved the rule.
It's been traditional for years to have a standing rib roast on Christmas Day, and today was no different. It got done and we pulled it out to let it rest, placing it on a ribbed glass platter. We then put the platter on a hot tray, and therein was our mistake.
That platter broke into about seventeen pieces just minutes after being placed on the hot tray. A mad scramble ensued as we cleaned glass off the counter, the floor, and the bottom of the roast.
We decided to carve the bottom half-inch of meat off the roast before serving.
Note: This entry was originally published December 24, 2003.
From the Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus?Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!
From The People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9.
Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" was an immediate sensation, and became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.
Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:
"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.
"It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's so,' and that settled the matter.
" 'Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,' I said to father.
"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.' "
And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents' favorite newspaper.
Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant." When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.
Now, he had in his hands a little girl's letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.
"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.
Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.
Virginia O'Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master's from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.
(Thanks to Barricks Insurance for the text.)
A footnote: The original letter Ms. O'Hanlon wrote appeared on The Antique Road Show a while back; I got the picture there. It was appraised at between $20,000 - $30,000.
Here's a wonderful anecdote about some youngsters singing this song with Tormé in the audience, in case you haven't read it before when I've linked to it.
Do You Hear What I Hear: The Christ Church Choir
Good King Wenceslas: The Irish Rovers
Yes, that's big news. It's a sorry state of affairs when it has to be regarded as such, but that's life in the US Congress circa 2010.
What adult behavior did they exhibit? Why, they voted with Democrats to ratify New START, an arms control treaty with Russia which shouldn't have been controversial at all.
That it was a struggle speaks more to the lack of statesmanship in the current version of the Republican party, whose leaders felt it was more important to try to score political points against the President by voting the treaty down than to restart nuclear verifications in Russia. "Loose nukes? Ha! I'd rather defeat the President in 2012," said Senator Mitch McConnell.
Fortunately, enough of his caucus felt differently that the treaty was approved.
Sleigh Ride: The Ronettes
According to Wikipedia the album this is on ("A Christmas Gift for You") tanked after it was originally released on November 22, 1963. It has since gained some stature: Rolling Stone placed it at #142 of the magazine's top 500 albums of all time.
Well, maybe. It's a good album.
I've been paying an annual fee to McAfee for about ten years for anti-virus protection on this machine and its predecessors and feeling fairly safe because of that coverage.
The subscription has gone up over time; I think it was about to go to $59.95 or close to that. That's getting to be serious money.
The other day I got a Christmas card from my phone company thanking me for my business (landline and DSL). In the body of the card it mentioned that as part of my bundled service I was entitled to McAfee's Security Suite at no additional cost.
Well, rats. How long has that been a freebie?
Anyway, I've now uninstalled my paid version and re-installed through the phone company, thereby saving some bucks. As a bonus I feel like an idiot.
Silver Bells: Judy Collins
This is my favorite Christmas song sung by one of my favorite singers. I was buying Judy's albums at the same time I was buying Beatles' albums. She and Joan Baez had the clearest sopranos of the folk era. I saw her play at the University of Arizona Main Auditorium, probably in 1968. 28 years later, her voice is as good as ever.
I wanted to find a YouTube video of Dave Frishberg and Rebecca Kilgore singing this, but couldn't. You'll just have to be satisfied with Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer singing "Baby It's Cold Outside."
The song was written by Frank Loesser. Here's the backstory behind it. Loesser wrote it specifically so that he and his wife Lynn could sing it at parties. He eventually sold the rights to MGM, which did not please her one bit (understandably, as the studio first put it into the mouths of those noted singers Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban in a film called "Neptune's Daughter"). It's been covered by hundreds of singers from Bing Crosby to Rod Stewart. The one many people are now familiar with is from the movie "Elf," sung (on the soundtrack) by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone.
It's Christmas Time: The Carpenters
Here's an interesting story from NPR about the origins of Christmas carols and the distinction between those and hymns.
Mannheim Steamroller starts off my Christmas music marathon with "Let It Snow."
Here's Amazon's list of Christmas CDs released this year.
Artists include James Taylor, the cast of "Glee," Annie Lennox, Susan Boyle, Straight No Chaser, Wilson Phillips and Katharine McPhee.
Headline: Senate Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
It didn't go quietly, but it has gone away, despite pleas by the troglodyte wing of the Republican party.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and his party’s presidential candidate in 2008, led the opposition to the repeal and said the vote was a sad day in history. “I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”Once upon a time John McCain was a reasonably well-respected Senator. Not any more. He's a bitter old fool now.
My hard drive is spinning like crazy for no apparent reason. I've run Spybot and found a Trojan called Opachki.ru, which I got rid of after several passes with Spybot and McAfee. Now I'm defragging.
Why must this machine drive me crazy?
How I spent my morning:
The star is a little Charlie Brownish, but that adds charm, right?
The other day when I made that banana bread the loaf swallowed the kneading paddle. I didn't realize that and chipped it while slicing. It will still work, but now some of the non-stick coating is off. I decided I'd like to have a replacement.
Well. This Bella Cucina Bread Maker was purchased from a clearance table at Macy's, so going back there was useless. I found the distributor's website and called the customer service number, only to be told that they don't have the part in stock because "there's no demand for those." The customer service person suggested I find a generic paddle. I pointed out that there's no guarantee a generic one would have a hole which was the right diameter to fit the rod on which it spins. She agreed, but had no other suggestions. I asked her to check with her warehouse/inventory people to see if there was a stash of these things, which she agreed to do. A little while later I got an email from her telling me they had none. She did send me a link to an Amazon.UK page showing one she thought would work.
So how's your Christmas shopping going?
Mine? Thank you for asking. One present down, about ten or twenty to go.
Think Progress notes that the incoming Republican Governor of Wisconsin shot down a high-speed rail project between Madison and Milwaukee, turning down $810M in federal funding for it. He wants the money, mind you, but he wants to spend it on roads.
That in itself is small-minded, I think, but even more so when the money can only be spent on rail, and Governor Walker knows that.
So now not only is the money going to go elsewhere, but so are some jobs:
Talgo Inc., the Spanish manufacturer of high-speed train cars, will abandon its plant in Milwaukee in 2012, according to Nora Friend, a spokeswoman for the company.Smart move, Governor Walker.
The decision was made after U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced Thursday that the federal government was rescinding the $810 million allocated to Wisconsin. Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker had strongly opposed the state’s high-speed rail plan.
“We can’t stay and manufacture in Milwaukee without the high-speed rail to Madison,” Friend said. “This is terrible news.”
I'm poorer but the computer is faster. I've gotten my desktop tower back with a new motherboard in it.
Good. It's a lot tidier around here.
'Course, Eudora insisted on downloading two months worth of e-mail, some 2,500 messages (Facebook is a killer!).
Unrelated postscript: What the hell is "The Natural" doing on TV in December? It's usually scheduled around the time baseball season starts.
The most important news of the day: Navy beat Army in the 111th meeting between the two academies.
Despite the loss, all three of the academies are going to bowl games: Navy to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, Army to the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas, and Air Force to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport.
Bah. I got paid for my guitar, and one of the things I wanted to do with the cash was get the Compaq desktop diagnosed and repaired. I took it to a local place called ComputerGeeks, which boasts an $89 flat rate for diagnosis and inexpensive labor if parts are required.
The tech opened it up and discovered the capacitors on the motherboard had rounded tops, rather than the flat ones they're supposed to have. So it's fried. (I'm assuming that's correct; that's what I was told.) A new motherboard costs $140 plus shipping to Hawai'i.
That would mean $230 and I'd have the same two-year-old machine that just died, albeit with a new motherboard. A new machine these days seems to run about $350 or so.
I told him to pull the hard drive for me; turned out he had an external HD enclosure he'd sell me for $40 and halve the $89 fee, so I'll have this jury-rigged netbook configuration with an external hard drive plugged in via USB cable. I don't much like it, but I can live with it for a while, particularly for $85.
So, a question: there are a bunch of programs (iTunes and Eudora e-mail are the two biggies) installed on that hard drive; can I run them from the D drive, or do I have to re-install them on the netbook and set the paths for the data to the D drive?
Between news and blog reading this morning, I baked some banana bread:
It boggles my mind that in the year 2010 the US Senate still has 41 people in it who see nothing wrong with prohibiting an entire class of their fellow citizens from serving openly in the US Military, at a time when their talents are obviously needed.
Well, that's the case:
Senate Republicans blocked the attempt to move ahead with the bill that would have repealed the ban on gay troops serving openly in the military. The vote was 57-40, almost entirely along party lines, and three short of the 60 needed.You know what really strikes me as idiotic? The Republican demand that they control the process by which the bill is debated.
In an impassioned, impromptu speech, Ms. Collins complained that she wanted to vote in favor of the overall bill, including the repeal provision, but could not do so without an agreement on the process first.So process is more important than substance to Senator Collins and her fellow Republicans. The fact that the entire Defense Authorization Bill just died because of their overarching concern for how many amendments they'd be allowed to offer tells you all you need to know about them.
Nearly 40 years ago I started playing guitar. My first purchase was a Hofner Spanish (nylon-stringed) guitar, and my second was a Rickenbacker semi-hollowbody electric. You can see pictures of the Rick here.
I recognized a while back that I was not going to be invited to play in any rock and roll bands again (never was, really), so I put the Rickenbacker up for sale. A couple of weeks ago a guitarist in Michigan offered to buy it, and after some discussion of logistics I decided to sell it to him.
Monday, after receiving confirmation from PayPal that the money had been credited to my account, I shipped it off. Realistically I won't miss it, but it was a reminder of my youth that I no longer have. Ah well.
As far as I know this is the first time any President of either party has reduced the FICA tax.
From the NYT article on the deal Obama and the Republicans have made.
It would reduce the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax on all wage earners by two percentage points for one year, putting more money in the paychecks of workers.So the trust fund will be reduced by that amount, thus shortening the number of years before it starts paying out more than it takes in. This is the camel's nose under the tent. Yes, it should have a stimulative effect on the economy, but it's terrible precedent. Next year when it comes time to bump the tax rate back up the Republicans will undoubtedly howl that it didn't hurt anything to cut it, so let's cut some more because people deserve to keep their own money. And all the people who want to kill Social Security entirely (Pete Peterson and David Walker, I'm talking to you) will be delighted.
Update: The Washington Post is reporting that the shortfall in the Trust Fund will be made up with funds from general revenue.
I can't think of another explanation for a committee appointed by the Baseball Hall of Fame to study nominees from the Expansion Era (1973 - present) denying Marvin Miller entrance into the Hall.
Miller negotiated MLBPA's first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners in 1968. That agreement increased the minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000, the first increase in two decades. In 1970, Miller was able to get arbitration included in the collective bargaining agreement. Arbitration meant that disputes would be taken to an independent arbitrator to resolve the dispute. Previously disputes were taken to the Commissioner - hired by the owners - who generally ruled in favor of the owners.Miller's successful negotiations paved the way for the age of free agency for players; hundreds of them owe their skyrocketing salaries and their cushy retirement incomes to him.
And for those achievements he's been hated by baseball's owners ever since.
Baseball and its Veterans Committee should be ashamed of itself.
Here is a list of all the upcoming football bowl games leading up to the BCS "National Championship Game" on January 10, 2011. It includes dates, kickoff times, and TV channels.
Caveat: You must conclude your Christmas shopping before tuning in to any of these:
Basic financial advice always includes the word "diversification," meaning "don't put all your eggs in one basket." Don't have all your retirement stocks in your company's ESOP, don't have all your mutual funds in the natural resources sector; spread the funds around. When one goes south the others will hopefully be going north, etcetera.
I thought I'd done that with my investments in teams in the National Football League. I became a Washington Redskins fan while living in the DC suburbs in the 1960s, and I became a San Francisco 49er fan because Joe Montana was the best quarterback I'd ever seen.
For the past ten years or so, neither the Redskins (now 5-7 after today's game) nor the 49ers (4-8 after today's game) has had any playoff potential at all, much less any chance of getting to the Super Bowl.
So much for emotional diversification.
Urban Santa, Ala Moana Shopping Center
Looking toward Waikiki
We'd decided to use the artificial Christmas tree this year, and apparently that didn't sit well with my sister. She came by earlier this week with a ticket for a tree from Habilitat, a local substance abuse rehab facility.
Off I went this morning to pick it up, saying I was going out and repeating the mantra "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies." I brought back our six-foot Noble Fir and carted it around to the back of the house where Mom could see it. Her eyes got really big and her jaw dropped a foot.
My sister's gift gets an "A" grade.
I was at Ala Moana Shopping Center this afternoon and noticed that about 1/5 of all the under-25 women I saw were wearing boots, either calf or knee-high. The rest were sensibly wearing slippers (flip-flops, for you Mainlanders).
Boots? In 80-degree temperatures?
I've never been much of a baker. Not cupcakes, not cakes, and certainly not breads.
The bread machine has clued me in to the way kitchens smell when there's a fresh loaf baking away. Yum!
It changed my menu last night, too. The bread was going to be done at 6:15pm, so I microwaved some bacon, fried some hash-browns, and made a cheese omelet to go with toasted freshly-made sourdough bread.
In this ongoing debate about the Bush tax cuts and whether millionaires deserve to have them continue, one of the arguments Republicans make is that those people are the ones who create jobs.
American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday.So if they're making money hand over fist, why are they not creating jobs? Could it possibly be that they don't see enough demand to increase production? That their profits are up because they're making more with fewer people, and they like it that way?
I left this as a comment on a post at Lance Mannion's place, and the cold light of day hasn't changed my mind so I'm posting it here as well.
I'm afraid I can't buy the analysis cited in that post actor212 linked to (it posits that by freezing Federal wages Obama takes a Republican bargaining chip away from them, since that's been a talking point of theirs which pleases their base mightily). I honestly think Obama really believes, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, he should have reached out more to Republicans over the past two years and had he just done so his powers of persuasion could have won the day and gotten him some votes from that side.
I think he's used to Democrats, whose party discipline is nowhere near as strong as Republicans. Hell, he could have offered each Republican Senator a few million bucks and each would still have voted against Democratic initiatives. Look at the number of meetings Senator Kyl has had with Administration officials. He's still endangering national security by refusing to go along with START, and his reasons are false and specious. Yet Obama and his crowd won't call him out on it by name, nor will Obama make a damn speech saying the Republicans are endangering our security by refusing to ratify that thing. Bush said that about Democrats every time they tried to hold up his Iraq war or modify its funding.
I think he still doesn't realize what sort of animal the opposition is. It's not a cuddly Sun Bear, it's a damn grizzly which really does want to obstruct everything he wants to do, and if the citizens of this country are hurt even further by the Republicans' actions, they don't care. I think he's going to be a single-termer unless he figures that out.
The Hopey-Changey thing isn't working. I'm more disillusioned about this guy than I ever was about Clinton.
Update: See, Mr. President? Senator McConnell writes
For that reason, we write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.What about the word "intransigence" do you not understand?