minutia press.
Need vs want

With all the economic news, I've been particular keen to hear what people think of the state of things: how we got here and where we might go.

On NPR this morning I heard this story, which argues that no matter what we do, it is going to be tough on the guilty and the innocent. The story went on to point out that the amount of money we as a nation owe has risen to our yearly GDP. This was the case before only in 1929 before the crash.

So I've been reflecting on the nature of borrowing and the kinds of messages I heard as I grew up as compared with the messages we have heard over the past 10 years or so.

My mom was born in the year of the depression, and I have attributed her careful spending of money as an artifact of being a "depression baby". But I learned from her example, and have all my life tried not to waste anything: time, money, water, any resource. I borrowed money only when it came to providing something necessary for myself or my family, and I always had the plan and inclination to pay it back expeditiously. But there are certainly times when my "want" exceeds my "need", even for something as capricious as chocolate. I understand what that is about and it also seems a part of human nature, this idea of want exceeding need.

I think of what it took to bring the iron curtain down. It wasn't so much by might or by power, but by economics that things changed. People always want a better life for themselves. But look at what is happening to us now. The notion of getting something quickly now at the expense of paying for it later may seem like the American Way, but we can see now the problems with that approach. Economics may make us into a nation that thinks more about what we need than what we want, and that may turn out to be a good thing.

I'm capitalism's biggest fan, as it nurtures the competitive side of our psyche and drives us to achieve bigger and better things. But we have fooled some people into thinking that possessing a thing is the same as having earned it. Optimists are seeing this as a time when we can reset our values and focus on what is important. I want to be one of them.


Anthem Blues

OK, here I go again. But this time, I have some legislation in mind.

Anyone who has been within earshot of me at a Blues game has heard me complain about the disregard and disdain the "singers" of our national anthem have for the crowd. Instead of enabling the community singing of our National Anthem, these diabolical divas crow on in any way they can to make our Anthem their own. While I may not have the ideal solution, I think we, as a nation, should recognize what is, and is not, the singing of our National Anthem.

At the Blues game, when you hear "Please join Charles Glenn in the singing of our National Anthem" why are we not disappointed when we hear something that is certainly not our National Anthem?

Here are some videos I have found on Youtube that help make my point:

Now compare this with the singing of O Canada, where the singer just starts the crowd going and then joins with them.

Or here is a tete-a-tete comparison of both anthems at the NHL playoffs.

So here is what I propose: if somebody with an overinflated set of lungs and ego wants to perform a solo rendition of our National Anthem, that is fine, but I suggest legislation should be enacted to call that what it is -- or at least not call it our National Anthem.

For a song to be called our National Anthem, I propose the following criteria:

  1. It should begin in a key within a range that most people can sing. Bb is about as high as I would venture, and Ab would be much better. It should end in the same key.
  2. It should remain in tempo, with a statutory limit on the number of fermatas (fermate?) that can be applied, and the places at which they may be attempted. I suggest a limit of one fermata, but perhaps we could leave this up to the states -- some of their citizens may have more time on their hands than others.
  3. Dynamics that are intended to steal away the song are to be avoided. A rallying crescendo is OK, but each phrase need not have a volume all its own.
  4. At least half of the US Citizens present should be singing the Anthem with the songleader (I avoid the term "soloist"), and the other half should have written excuses for why they are not singing.


25 or so not so random things about me

[ from facebook -- gives me an excuse to post after a log absence ]

Lorrie Cranor has inspired (tagged) me to do this, so here goes.....

1) I don't like to bother people too much so I won't tag others to do this. But I would gladly read what you post.

2) Like Lorrie, I am the first-born child of two first-born children, and so is my wife.

3) I like corollaries. My first-born daughter is also the first-born child of two first-born children.

4) I once met a grandmother I didn't know I had.

5) I lost a beard-growing contest to a friend of mine from New York. Since then, I have not been allowed to grow a beard.

6) I don't like shaving very much, and I'm not particularly good at it. I am better at growing a beard than the record would indicate.

7) I was standing not very far from someone who fell to his death on the Eiffel tower. I was unable to talk for a while after that and had to go to sleep.

8) In second grade, I won a mail-in contest on the Mr. Peppermint show in Dallas, but I didn't know that because they mispronounced my name. A friend (Darr Oney) told me I won at school, but I didn't believe it until the prize came. The prize was a red vinyl record recorded by Pebbles and Bam Bam of "Let the Sun Shine in, make it with a grin".

9) The vinyl records I had as a kid were sold by my well intentioned father in a garage sale. I still miss them.

10) I sometimes wish my hair would part on the other side, so that when I look in a mirror, I could see what I really look like.

11) I like writing sonnets and have written six so far. One of them won a contest when I was in high school.

12) My family never moved houses as I grew up. My parents still live in that house.

13) I play the pipe organ and at one time played it decently.

14) At one point in grad school, I had 3 organist jobs: one at the Chanute Air Force base (Sundays), one at the Christian Scientist church (Wednesdays), and one at the Seventh-Day Adventist church (Saturdays).

15) I am Jewish and never saw a pipe organ until I was 17.

16) I met my wife (though she wasn't my wife at the time) because I play organ, even though she, being Jewish, had also not seen a pipe organ growing up. My wife is a percussionist and played drums at our wedding.

17) I now mostly play guitar, and took it up in fifth grade after having to practice piano more than I wanted.

18) I now own a Rainsong guitar, and I don't let many people play it. (Or even point at it). It definitely goes to 11.

19) I have a blog and have written an essay about grading theory papers at high altitude. The URL is http://rkc.negative273.com. I don't post much anymore.

20) I saved many things growing up, hoping to give them to children I might have some day. One of those things is a hook rug I made in art class in 7th grade. It's now hanging in my son's bedroom. Another is a set of Hardy Boy books, which none of my kids wants to read.

21) I talked frequently to a coat hanger from my closet when I was a kid. It never spoke back, but my middle child collected hangers when she was very young.

22) My favorite shape is the rhombus.

23) I wanted to be a superhero when I grew up. I am now a computer scientist. Those professions are not as dissimilar as you might think.

24) When I was in Las Vegas, I bet on roulette because a friend Mike asked me to put $5 on the wheel for him, using his football jersey number divided by 2. That number also happened to be my hockey jersey number, so I matched his $5, and we won. I have never bet on the wheel again.

25) I now play adult no-checking ice hockey but didn't start skating until I was 43 years old. Several times a week, I wish I had started that a lot younger. Several times a day, I wish I could play a lot better.

26) I am a Texan by birth, a New Yorker by choice, and a St. Louisan by marriage.

27) I don't believe in regrets, but I sometimes wish I did.

28) I wanted to make it to 28 things because 28 is a perfect number. I like math, and like solving for the unknown.


Senate seats

If the US Senate wants to take an absurd position and not seat senators who have been elected or appointed by a state, then I suggest the citizens of the affected states react appropriately:

If Minnesota and Illinois have but one senator allowed in the Senate, then the citizens of those states ought to pay only 1/2 of their Federal taxes. Otherwise, we surely have taxation without representation.


Metro Link

Our light rail transit system has been voicing its confusion over what to do in the aftermath of the defeat of Proposition M.

While most people I know had hoped Prop M would pass, the big problem is that the transit agency has done much damage to its reputation by mismanagement and law suits that threw good money after bad.

Great cities have great transportation systems. The transit story here is reasonable for light rail -- trains run at least every 20 minutes most of the time. Busses? They run once an hour, which can't do most people much good except for the planned commute. They have bike racks for two bikes and if the rack is full, you are supposed to wait an hour for the next bus, hoping its bike rack would have more room.

It's pretty clear to me that Metro Link has been more successful than most of us thought it would be. I see into the trains as they go by Wash. U., and there are people riding Metro Link all day long.

Because of Metro Link's Prop M not passing, the transit agency is threatening to do a number of things, such as cut off light rail service after 8 PM (so much for taking the train to hockey or baseball games),

That's really likely to raise excitement and support for light rail.

Can't the ticket price be raised 25 cents? Can't other sources of city/county funding be tapped? If we are in a building slump now it should be cheaper to expand metro link today than it would have been a year ago.

Everyone is so quick to say that systems like Metro Link operate at a loss. What they don't take into account is the cost we must pay to build more roads to accommodate commuters who would not have a light rail system. Or the health cost of the bad air we experience with more cars on the road.


But is it English enough?

It looks like Missouri has gotten embroiled in one of those pivotal legislative moments when we get to decide whether English is our official language. Turning from less pressing issues such as the financial crises and the war in Iraq, we voters can now focus on more substantive issues such as language at official meetings.

But maybe the proposal doesn't go far enough?

If these are official meetings at which English should be enforced as the official language, should we not also insist that the English itself be official? I wonder if text or comments could be stricken from the records, should the grammar, syntax, and phraseology not jive with "official" English.

One could argue that the language in which we speak and write is a language that is different from official English. I really doubt that any meetings are, or have ever been, conducted in official English.

In addition to bailiffs and other armed personnel to guard a courtroom from improper conduct, perhaps our courts should also include a court grammarian, armed with a dictionary, thesaurus, and a pen (which is, after all, mightier than the sword anyway). His or her job would be to enforce the official language of English on all who speak or write in court.

Can objections be offered by counsel on the basis of poor sentence structure, subject/verb disagreement, and split infinitives? Could appeals be based on pronoun problems (who or whom), and can a judge initiate a "which" hunt to replace erroneous "whiches" with "thats"?

Perhaps this proposition is something up with which we should not put.


Whither the Gladiators

As the presidential race enters its final weeks and as sports fans start thinking about Hockey, the question that seems to be on almost nobody's mind is: What happened to the Gladiators?

The almost award-winning C-level adult hockey team that nearly took first place last season has been reborn, rebranded, and reinvented as the Stealth. The change took place, aptly, with little fanfare and under the radar. Indeed, readers of this blog may be the only ones outside the cognoscenti who are burdened with this information.

Not to be outdone, the Blast traded in their tornadic logo to become the Pirates. Well, now my former team can yell with impunity: Prepare to be boarded.


TV reception conversion to digital

A colleague sent me this.

(I know I haven't posted in a while, will try to restart soon....)


Great minivan trip

Long before gas became a boutique item, we had decided not to make an RV excursion this Summer. Two of our kids are more quasi-adults than kids, so we thought we would just go somewhere and stay there a bit. For your graph fans out there, we became vertex-centric instead of edge-centric.

So we are into first leg of our trip, driving in the minivan from St. Louis and now in Hays, Kansas. We managed to fit everything in the minivan, including (to my surprise) my guitar. My suitcase is occupied more by skating gear (rollerblades, pads, and ice skates) than it is by other things.

Kansas surprised us by managing to offer more than uniformity and quantity of view: they now charge a toll as you drive West from Kansas City. This makes one even less likely to wander off highway -- trading tourism dollars for transportation dollars.

After we finished with the toll portion of I-70, we became nostalgic about Wamego, home of the Wizard of Oz museum (really and modestly just
called the Oz museum). Well, it wasn't the museum we were so eagerly to deja vu: it was the amazing coffee shop across the street. So we drove a round-trip score of miles off the highway, only to find out that the coffee shop has gone the way of their grounds. There was a smaller and humbler coffee shop next to the Oz museum, but they deigned not to be open (but they did invite us to come back some other time). Well, after all, it was a Saturday afternoon, and who would think tourists might stop by then? We took advantage of the gas station and headed on our way to Hays, Kansas, from which your humble correspondent now blogs.

Today we drive to Ft. Collins, to check out Colorado State University (which we have decided to shorten to CSU). From there, Boulder to check out UC Boulder, and from there our vertex of extraordinary magnitude: Breckenridge.

So far things are as expected: Jacob launched his 5th film festival in the way-back. Teenagers alternated between texting and snoozing, sometimes texting each other. In a surprise move, I was allowed to drive part of the way (news crews were on hand to cover this rare event).

That's it for now, more from the road later.


Domestic Brew HaHa

We joined another family to eat at Culpepper's in Creve Coeur the other night. I asked the waiter about beer possibilities, and he told me he'd give me the happy hour rate even though we were sitting in the restaurant. Great, so I picked the Schlafly Hefeweizen and started looking over the menu.

The waiter returns to tell me that the happy hour rate is only for domestic beer, and they don't consider Schlafly to be a domestic brewery. And whom do they consider domestic? Budweiser of course.

If you're from St. Louis, you're aware that InBev is trying really, really hard to buy Anheuser-Busch.

InBev is in Belgium, which is across the river from St. Louis (across the ocean too, but I don't need to go that far to make my point). Busch is pretty much at the river, and is (according to Google) 13.9 miles from the restaurant.

Meanwhile, Culpepper's Schlafly is made in Kirkwood (yes, I asked the waiter), which is 9.3 miles from the restaurant.

So, in spite of its Teutonic title, its Aryan appellation, its German gastronomy, the hefeweizen beer is more neighborly than the Bud beer that they're passing off as (ha!) domestic. Come on, it had to travel a good 4 miles further than the Schlafly to get to my table!


Hockey Camp -- day three

It occurred to me this morning that it's hard to find time to eat anything substantial at hockey camp. The ice sessions occur not too long after you might eat breakfast or lunch, and then by dinner, it's kind of late to eat anything heavy. I guess this is a good thing, but it's made me think about eating small things almost continuously throughout the day. Lots of bananas (so sore!).

Today we also have two ice sessions, and things went pretty much as they did Friday. There was more scrimmaging today, but we moved to 4 on 4. With just 2 subs, this gets tiring pretty quick, but we moved to the NHL (narrower, shorter) sheet of ice in the morning. There was another chalk talk in the afternoon, with great ideas about plays that work well when a team can pull them off. Dry land (in a bit of rain) was great again too, and we took those ideas to the ice again in the afternoon.

There was a "banquet" in the evening, which was steak, chicken, salad, corn -- the most food we have eaten really since arriving at camp. It was great, and then there was a kind of awards session. The coaches said a lot of nice things about all of us -- they've been very positive throughout. They told us (and said this was truthful) that they had never seen a group improve to the extent that we did in such a short period of time.

It's been a great experience for me. Sometimes after swimming and bobbing around in the ocean, or riding a bunch of roller coasters, you get the sensation of still doing those things as you go to sleep. I've had that happen the past few nights, and I've been dreaming a lot about hockey.

Tomorrow is our last session, which I may cut short to try to get to the airport a bit earlier to catch an earlier flight. Otherwise I don't get home until close to midnight.


Hockey Camp -- day two

Friday we had 2 ice times, 2 hours each. I got up early and walked around town a bit, and then went for the first ice time. They took our team picture, and we went into power skating, passing shooting, and our first scrimmage. There are only 14 of us, and one guy hurt his shoulder before coming to camp, so he couldn't play. Our team had just 6 people, but we played 3 on 3 which made it easier. We were on "Olympic" ice, which is a larger surface area than most of us are used to, which made it harder. The teams were actually pretty well matched. I felt better at the end of this 2 hour session than I had the previous night.

There was a "chalk talk" session and a "dry land" session in the afternoon. In the chalk talk, the coach went over some ideas on a white board and we got to ask questions about positioning and play. I learned that there are relatively modern ideas about how to line up at a face off, compared to the kind of standard thing we do in our league. The dry land session was something I'd never done, and it was great. The idea (for us) was to level the field a bit by taking skating out of the picture, and working on positioning and offensive and defensive strategies. We just used a small soft ball that we threw to each other. We took the ideas from dry land to the ice in the second ice session.

I don't remember being this tired since hiking up Pikes Peak when I was at camp in Colorado as a kid. Two hours on the ice is about twice what I'm used to, and the pace is pretty intense. I'm having a great time, and getting a lot out of this.