Time to retire the idiom?

Seen here:

Yesterday I told the kids that I was sounding like a broken record. Then I had to explain what I meant, since they have absolutely no idea:

  • what a record is,
  • how it works, or
  • how it can still work when broken, and thus
  • why it then sounds like it does.

Sigh. I’m not just their Dad, I’m now officially an old fogey.

My favorite essay

I ran across a link today to one of my favorite essays of all time Malcolm Gladwell’s Big and Bad: How the S.U.V. ran over automotive safety. I hadn’t read it in a while, and took the time today to re-read it.
We know someone who typifies the mindset that Gladwell profiles. She drives a bright red Chevrolet Tahoe, and she says she would not be caught dead driving a minivan. I sent her a link to this essay and others, and have repeatedly tried to point out the fallacious nature of her reasons for driving a large SUV–all to no avail. It’s crazy. For her, the feelings associated with driving an SUV–perceived dominance on the roads, perceived safety–trump all reason.

We finally cut our phone line!

A couple of months ago, I did some research and polling of my fellow geeks, and decided that it was finally time to move to broadband telephone service for our home. With AT&T providing our local, toll and long distance service, our monthly phone bills were $80-100.
I signed up for a VoIP account with Vonage–unlimited calling for $25/month. Vonage promptly sent me a LinkSys router, assigned me a temporary telephone number, set up my 911 emergency service, and started the process of having our existing home telephone number moved from AT&T to Vonage.
Well, after dragging their feet for two months, AT&T finally came through a few days ago on the number transfer. When I got home from work that day, I went outside and took the very satisfying action of unplugging our house from the telephone grid. Then I went back in, plugged the router into the phone jack in the study, and voila, it was done.
Katie is our primary telephone user (as in 99%! I hate talking on the telephone), and I was concerned that she would be displeased with some unforeseen differences in our service, but so far, she hasn’t detected any changes at all.
We’re saving a lot of money and we no longer have to have uncomfortable conversations about the amount of time/money Katie spends on long-distance calls with her mother. I call that a win-win situation!

High oil prices and recession

In this short New Yorker article, James Surowiecki explains why rising oil prices have not thrown the U.S. into recession, and more generally, why oil prices do not necessarily have as big an impact on the economy as people tend to think.
I can follow his reasoning, and on a macroeconomic level, I buy it. But then I look at the effect that rising oil prices has on an average family. In our two-car family, our monthly expenditure on gasoline has gone up by at least $50 in the recently, probably closer to $100. Our income hasn’t risen, so that’s $50-100 that we do not have to save or spend on other things. Considering that every family in the nation is experiencing the same thing, I can’t help but think that this must have some sort of effect on the overall economy.
If it truly isn’t having much of an effect, then it reveals what a load of bull is spewed about tax cuts. I remember when the federal government sent $400/child pre-emptive tax refund checks to families a couple of years ago. This mail-out was heralded as a big stimulant to the economy. If significantly increased gasoline prices doesn’t have much of a negative effect on the economy, then this one-time payout can’t have had much of a positive effect either.


On Friday, the mother of one of Hannah’s school friends called to ask whether we were coming to the party at her house on Saturday.
After the call, Katie told me that she vaguely remembered an email invitation earlier in the week, but had forgotten about it. We were planning to have several good friends over a little earlier on Saturday.
Katie said that she had agreed to go because she thought that these parents were making an effort to get to know us better, since our daughters are friends and we just live a few blocks apart. Katie had told the mother that we would come over as soon as our friends left.
So, as soon as our last friends got in their car on Saturday evening, the four us of ran over to these people’s house. A woman whom we didn’t know answered the door; she was wearing a name tag and holding a role of raffle/game type tickets. I immediately knew what was going on. We walked in, and my suspicions were confirmed: a group of women was sitting around a table with a bunch of candles on it. The mother of Hannah’s friend said that her husband and kids were not at home, and tried to hint that the invitation was only for Katie.
Turns out, it was a Party Lite, which is apparently the current trend in home sales parties.
The kids and I high-tailed it back home, leaving Katie stranded. I felt really bad for her. When she got home a little later, I asked her the damage: the said she had bought the cheapest item, $15, and had refused to get on the mailing list or host her own party. Actually, I was proud of her. I know it’s tough for her to say no under such circumstances.
If Katie had realized the nature of the party earlier in the week, I’m sure she would have not gone.

Beige dog

Our dog Tippie just got her summer shave. We did it ourselves, so it doesn’t look great, but it does help to keep her cooler. Tippie is half German Shepherd, half Husky (a ‘Shepsky’ to us), and she has incredibly long, thick fur–which makes her very hot in the Texas summers. Her undercoat is very light, so when we shave her, she is a completely different color. We call her ‘beige dog.’
Before and after pictures:
P.S. In case you’re wondering, the red collar with the black box is her shock collar for the invisible fence. We have a wooden picket fence around the back yard, but Tippie tends to dig under it and/or chew her way through it, so we keep her from the wood fence with an invisible fence. She’s a special needs dog.

Disaster capitalism

This article in The Nation is pretty depressing:

As in other reconstruction sites, from Haiti to Iraq, tsunami relief has little to do with recovering what was lost. . . The coast is not being rebuilt as it was–dotted with fishing villages and beaches strewn with handmade nets. Instead, governments, corporations and foreign donors are teaming up to rebuild it as they would like it to be: the beaches as playgrounds for tourists, the oceans as watery mines for corporate fishing fleets, both serviced by privatized airports and highways built on borrowed money.
In January Condoleezza Rice sparked a small controversy by describing the tsunami as “a wonderful opportunity” that “has paid great dividends for us.” Many were horrified at the idea of treating a massive human tragedy as a chance to seek advantage. But, if anything, Rice was understating the case. A group calling itself Thailand Tsunami Survivors and Supporters says that for “businessmen-politicians, the tsunami was the answer to their prayers, since it literally wiped these coastal areas clean of the communities which had previously stood in the way of their plans for resorts, hotels, casinos and shrimp farms. To them, all these coastal areas are now open land!”

(Via Approximately Perfect)