“What if what’s always happened with Hillary—they did all the work, they know everything, they’re super qualified—what if they didn’t do it? What if they fucked it up?”

— Esquire collects election-night quotes

Music quiz


In the service of Sheila A-Stray’s Redheaded Ramblings, I once again assert my Internet Lemminghood.

1. Your favorite song with the name of a city in the title or text.

New York, New York, Sinatra. In my college days, I’d occasionally mock my fellow students by strutting across campus with my Big-Eighties Boombox mounted on my shoulder, blasting out this tune with the volume set to “stun”. These days I do much the same with Mel Tormé’s Too close for comfort when I find myself at a stop light or in a gas station with someone who feels the need to share his gangsta rap with everyone in a two-block radius.

2. A song you’ve listened to repeatedly when you were depressed at some point in your life.

At seventeen. It felt so good to not be Janis Ian. Also The other end of the telescope, ’Til Tuesday with Elvis Costello. Hmm, and Sheena Easton’s cover of In the winter, a real wrist-slasher.

3. Ever bought an entire album just for one song and wound up disliking everything but that song? Gimme that song.

Jerry Jeff Walker’s Flowers in the snow, from Navajo Rug. Actually, I already had the song on a sampler, and made the mistake of thinking it was representative of the album. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

4. A great song in a language other than English.

Coisich, a rùin, Capercaillie, from Delirium.

5. Your least favorite song on one of your favorite albums of all time.

Lover’s day, ’Til Tuesday, from Welcome Home

6. A song you like by someone you find physically unattractive or otherwise repellent.

Soldier of love, Donny Osmond. I suppose he’s a good-looking guy if you’re into that sort of thing, but I just can’t get past that whole “little bit country, little bit rock and roll” thing that scarred my youth.

7. Your favorite song that has expletives in it that’s not by Liz Phair.

The Queer Song, Two Nice Girls.

8. A song that sounds as if it’s by someone British but isn’t.

Coming up blank on this one.

9. A song you like (possibly from your past) that took you forever to finally locate a copy of.

I got it from Agnes, Tom Lehrer. I had the sheet music for nearly twenty years before he released a CD that included it.

10. A song that reminds you of spring but doesn’t mention spring at all.

Full moon full of love, k.d. lang.

11. A song that sounds to you like being happy feels.

Waterloo, ABBA, in Swedish.

12. Your favorite song from a non-soundtrack compilation album.

Hotel California, Gipsy Kings, from Rubaiyat.

13. A song that reminds you of high school.

Heh. Centerfold, J. Geils Band.

14. A song that reminds you of college.

Laura, Billy Joel.

15. A song you actually like by an artist you otherwise dislike.

You oughta know, by, y’know, her.

16. A song by a band that features three or more female members.

I spent my last $10 on birth control and beer, Two Nice Girls.

17. One of the earliest songs that you can remember listening to.

My sweet Lord, George Harrison.

18. A song you’ve been mocked by friends for liking.

I want your love, Transvision Vamp. Also my complete collection of Debbie/Deborah Gibson albums.

19. A really good cover version you think no one else has heard.

Cruella deVille, The Replacements.

20. A song that has helped cheer you up (or empowered you somehow) after a breakup or otherwise difficult situation.

Tranent Muir, The Tannahill Weavers. There are days I just need to play this song REALLY REALLY LOUD.

Okay, I can respect that


Richard Simmons never struck me as the sort of person who’d respond to criticism with physical violence, but when a burly 6-foot biker and cage fighter started making fun of his exercise videos at an autograph signing, he did.

Burly. 6-foot. Biker. Cage fighter. Richard Simmons. Smackdown.

The world is stranger than we imagine.

Tort reform


[ah, the joys of arguing with friends; this little anecdote was originally composed for a mailing list of the friends I play card and board games with on weekends, one of whom described tort reform as “crippling the justice system”]

A few years back, I was foreman on a jury in the civil suit that came out of a car accident. A commercial driver ran a red light and hit some woman’s car, causing damage and injury. The insurance companies had already settled the car damage, the company and their driver openly took full responsibility, and the woman wasn’t seriously injured.

We nitpicked every line-item of her medical bills, knocking out some of the physical therapy and correcting their arithmetic. And then we gave her $20,000 for pain and suffering.

Personally, I thought that the number should have been $0, because they never disputed their responsibility or tried to evade paying for her legitimate medical bills. Maybe I’d have given her money for legal fees and other expenses if they’d tried to avoid paying, but they didn’t; their driver made a mistake, and they handled it properly.

I know I tend to have a somewhat… forceful personality, so I carefully hid my feelings on the subject and asked the rest of the jury if they thought she deserved any money for pain and suffering. Everyone said yes, and I asked if $1,000 was the right amount. By the time I got up to $5,000, I think three people agreed, but it wasn’t until I hit $20,000 that everyone was convinced it was enough.

I then asked if anyone thought $20,000 was excessive. No one spoke up. The immigrant-owned small business didn’t have great insurance, or they wouldn’t have been the defendants. They didn’t have much cash, or they’d probably have settled out of court. But we didn’t talk about the impact our decision would have on them; we talked about our own experiences with injuries and accidents, and how it feels to recover from them.

And that’s what I think about when someone mentions tort reform. There’s a good chance we crippled that small business, and no one even thought about it.

How many times does this happen every day, and how many times is it worse? By an order of magnitude or more? If we’d been dealing with the representative of a deep-pockets insurance company, would we have given her even more? How much more?

Baby pictures


Rode into work this afternoon (through ridiculous winds), and took advantage of the late afternoon sun to get a few pictures of the bike on campus. More coming, once I coax Photoshop into doing batch conversion of Olympus ORF-format raw data files. And buy a bigger CompactFlash card to hold them…

2005 BMW F650CS

Russian brides on tour!


While driving up 101 yesterday, I spotted an RV with a big banner on the side advertising Golden Ring Brides. They had apparently set up their “mobile office” at the Gilroy Outlet Mall, showing off their wares and perhaps hoping for some impulse buys on discontinued merchandise and seconds. Or something like that.

It looks like a pretty typical email-order-bride service. Most of the competition seems to offer more personal details about their product line without requiring registration, but how many others will tell you about her military experience?

That’s right, every product description includes Martial status. It looks like most of them have seen only light combat in a single engagement. At least, I think that’s what they mean…

I’m not in the market myself, although I do enjoy kicking tires, which makes the omission of personal details a real bummer. It’s fun to read a few dozen future-fiancées describe the man they’re looking for, because when you boil it down, most of them are really looking for a dog. Specifically, a Golden Retriever.

These are lovable, well-mannered, intelligent dogs with a great charm. They are easily trained, and always patient and gentle with children. Loyal, confident, sweet and eager to please. It is active, loving and an outstanding family dog. Golden Retrievers enjoy pleasing their masters, so obedience training can be fun. They excel in obedience competitions. Friendly with everyone, including other dogs, the Golden Retriever has very little, if any, guarding instincts. While unlikely to attack, Goldens make good watchdogs, loudly signaling a stranger's approach. This breed needs to be around people to be happy. If isolated from human contact, or left alone for long periods of time, the Golden Retriever may become mischievous. They can be over-exuberant and distractible. Some of the Golden's talents are hunting, tracking, retrieving, narcotics detection, agility, competitive obedience, and performing tricks. These dogs also love to swim.

Last thoughts about Golden Ring: their logo is, um, rather disturbing from the man’s point of view, Alexandra Shorina could make a bundle as a pin-up model or (exotic) dancer, if she’s not already doing so, and Julia Kruglova looks like a real catch. Something about the way she smiles.

But she’ll be a catch for someone else, because I’m not currently interested in marrying women who are already here, much less going to the trouble to import one.

“Look, everybody, I found Atlantis!”


“See, see, here it is!”

“No, we haven’t done any digging there, or carbon-dated any remains. Actually, we’ve never been there at all; it’s inside of a national park, you know. But if you interpret these satellite photos just right, it matches Plato’s description exactly!”

“Okay, we have to assume that Plato either deliberately understated the size of the city or that everyone has misinterpreted his era’s units of measurement by 20% or so, and that those goofy translators wrote ‘island’ where Plato meant ‘coastline,’ but these are trivial issues.”

“Well, trivial compared to the chance for me to get major publicity and a chance at serious funding, anyway.”

Your homework today is to decide how many of the seven warning signs of junk science this article demonstrates.

So why isn’t he a “dozerman”?


Okay, this guy is a nut. Armor-plating your bulldozer and trying to demolish your home town over a zoning dispute is, well, just a touch beyond the acceptably eccentric.

Despite the fact that most of his preparations involved welding armor to his vehicle and methodically wiping out half a town with it, the fact that he was also “exchanging gunfire” with the police makes him a gunman. Yes, that’s the headline:

Gunman goes on bulldozer rampage

I’m thinking of printing up a new CNN t-shirt with the slogan “Got bias?”.

Update: The headline on the updated story now reads “Bulldozer rampage gunman dead”. No mention of anyone being injured by a single bullet during his property-destruction spree (in fact, another account mentions that he seemed to be deliberately trying to avoid injuring people), but he’s not a dozerman or an outraged small-business owner, or even just a nutcase. No, the partisan hacks at CNN see him first and foremost as a gunman.

Fox? “Crazed Man on Bulldozer Rampage Found Dead.” Their version also includes a lot more honest-to-gosh facts about the incident. Maybe there’s something to that “fair and balanced” slogan after all…

Update: a number of non-CNN accounts now cast doubt on the claims that he ever shot at the police who were trying to stop him, and have pretty much debunked the early claim that he had fired at propane tanks in an effort to trigger an explosion. Even the BBC, no stranger to “sexing-up” their reporting on the evils of guns, makes no mention of him shooting at anyone but himself. Nonetheless, it will be forever enshrined in CNN’s archives that he was a gunman, who just happened to damage a few buildings with a bulldozer.

Voices in my head


So, after my Thursday riding plans were cancelled by a database crash, and my group scheduled an all-hands meeting for Friday afternoon, I decided to take the bike into work to show it off. Officially, I’m on vacation, so I was really just riding 70 miles, hanging out for an hour, and riding back. Hopefully getting past San Jose before the southbound traffic got too heavy.

It worked, too, but I didn’t get away quite soon enough to avoid the slowdown around Morgan Hill. Coincidentally, I needed to stop for gas, so I figured I’d cut over to Monterey Road for a few miles, then get back on 101. This worked out reasonably well, but when it came time to get back on the highway, I went into the turn too fast on the on-ramp, and the bike started edging closer to the yellow line and the end of the pavement.

Suddenly, I heard the voice of one of my MSF instructors, Jim Pereyra:

"What do you do? Lean more!"

I pushed on the low grip, the bike leaned over farther, and my turning radius tightened up. One of the many reasons I’m glad I got professional training before I bought my motorcycle.