December 30, 2004

What's the Matter with Kansas?

I recently finished the rather prophetic What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank. There are several good reviews out there, but I can't help adding my mediocre comments to the mix. Frank describes a backlash driven by conservative, blue collar, "Middle Americans," who turned away from the Democratic Party primarily over the issue of abortion. However, they are the suckers in a bait-and-switch scam, which harnesses their political power to accomplish things that are detrimental to them. Poor, conservative Republicans do the heavy lifting, while rich, moderate Republicans reap the rewards:

The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make your country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.

Terry Neal mentions the book in a Washington Post article, GOP Corporate Donors Cash In on Smut, that kinda pokes a needle in the red-states-morality balloon.

Posted 11:13 AM

December 23, 2004

Back to School

I just registered this week for my first full semester on the road to a Master of Software Engineering degree at the University of Maryland, University College (UMUC). First up is Issues in Software Engineering, and an undergrad discrete math course.

I'm very excited. My undergraduate degree is totally non-technical, and I avoided taking any math or hard science classes. I was kind of clueless back then. I wish someone had encouraged me back then to embrace my not-so-inner geek and go for something in engineering.

I did manage to complete the obligitory, no-credit, library resources course this month. That was an interesting, and not-completely-satisfactory, experience that I may discuss later.


December 10, 2004

A Tale of Two Flat Tires

Jen called me at work on Wednesday afternoon to say that she had a flat tire. She had picked up Madeleine from school, and was within walking distance of home, so I told her to leave the car there and I'd take care of it.

I drove home, changed clothes, then headed over in my car to find Jen's car. In a jiffy, I jacked it up, pulled the flat tire off, put the donut on, and brought the flat back to our house to attempt a repair. It had a nail in it, and I was confident in my ability to fix such a trivial puncture.

Well, the nail was wedged in really tightly. It had snaked its way in almost sideways, so I had to pull it out with a pair of pliers. Well, as soon as the nail came out, it went flying out of the pliers and into the driveway somewhere. Unfortunately, our driveway is gravel, with lots of nail-looking sticks laying around, and -- with it being winter and getting really dark early -- I couldn't find the thing after five minutes of intense searching. Oh well, I thought. What are the odds of it puncturing a tire again? After determining that the tire, which was hissing air out the sidewall, was beyond my skills to repair, I headed out to the grocery store in my car for some stuff we needed.

The next morning, I discovered that my car had a flat tire (same one; rear driver's side). I cannot tell you -- without offensive language -- the precise thoughts going though my head, but I knew if it was the same crooked nail, that I would have to call in sick and go for anger management counseling or something. A single nail, embodying such evil power to render two tires flat, would surely need to be taken to Mordor and destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom.

I was actually happy -- happy I say -- to finally find the philips head of the screw sticking out of my tire.


December 6, 2004

Daphne Should Be Fired

Madeleine (6) has been analyzing Scooby Doo movies. She knows that Shaggy's job is to accidentally find clues, and to share Scooby's love of food. Velma's job is to find clues and figure things out. Fred comes up with ideas for trapping the bad guys. Scooby has to do the unpleasant tasks (for Scooby snacks), always gets caught in the traps, but somehow catches the villains by accident.

That leaves Daphne. "Why do they have Daphne? She doesn't do anything!"