Archives: November 2007
Fri 30 Nov 2007
I did that quickie blog post, but never on Thursday did I sit down and answer Wednesday's email. I have been trying to be really good about answering the previous day's messages the next day and have managed to do that for a while without fail. But I missed Wednesday, which means that Wednesday's emails now go into the "older than one day, less than a month old" bucket, which I get to only if within the time I allocate each evening to email I finish the previous day's email and have time left over. Of course, at this moment, the oldest message in that bucket is the message telling me to deal with email in the "older than one month old" bucket... which means if I do deal with the yesterday's mail bucket, then I go to the second bucket, but it immediately tells me to go to the third... and I'm quite behind on the third bucket, so chances are it will be longer than a month until I get back to the second bucket...
This all ads up to, if you sent me any email on Wednesday, don't expect a reply for approximately a year. Sorry about that.
This also applies to the emails I sent to myself reminding me to do stuff. Oops. Oh well.
In any case, I will get to the emails that people sent me on Thursday shortly.
Thu 29 Nov 2007
Um.... I have several things I could potentially talk about, but they would all take more than a few minutes, and I am about to go into a three hour meeting, so I have no time for that. However, I will post anyway, because if I didn't, by the time I got out of the meeting, I would have not made any posts today, and it would be the first day in a long time I hadn't posted, so I'll make this post with no real content. Woo.
Wed 28 Nov 2007
So Amy's been in a brace again for awhile... maybe the last month? Dunno. It was after she was chasing some boy in the school parking lot and grabbed him and he twisted one way and she didn't. And her hand did something odd.
Latest doctor visit was today. The brace needs to stay on at least another 3 weeks, and they want to do an MRI to look to see if she did any damage that time alone won't heal and which would require more intrusive action.
Lovely. Oh well...
Of course, it hasn't slowed her down any, and I'm sure she is STILL chasing boys in the parking lot.
Tue 27 Nov 2007
Last night driving home from work I started getting a headache and a bit lightheaded. After a brief stop to get coffee with Brandy and a quick trip to the grocery store I crashed at home. I didn't actually just go to sleep, although I should have. But I was basically non-functional and non-productive all evening. I didn't even look at my email... let alone answer any. I didn't do anything else even remotely useful.
I pulled the Poang in front of my computer and watched recorded C-Span coverage of various Presidential campaign events for three or four hours. And some other news shows. Oh yeah, and an episode of C-Span's Presidential Libraries series. For those of you who may not have been watching, it is a very good series. If you missed them, you can watch all the ones that have aired so far on the C-Span website I linked to two sentences ago. There is only one left to air.
Anyway, I did absolutely nothing useful, but I was still up until 10 UTC or so.
So today I am tired, and still have a headache.
Oh, and there was an earthquake on the other side of Puget sound from us at about 6:30 UTC yesterday. We didn't feel anything ourselves, but the highlight of the news coverage of the evening was when the breathless news reporter talked on the phone to someone who had felt it. When asked how strong it was, the guy said "It was so strong my dog got up and walked around." It made me laugh. It was a very small earthquake.
Mon 26 Nov 2007
Curmudgeon's Corner: In Person All Together
Sam and Amy talk about:
- Our Listeners
- Preparing for the Show
- Commercial for ThinkGeek
- Middle School Communication
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Sun 25 Nov 2007
Sat 24 Nov 2007
Mr Wolf, Mr Wolf
I know I am a bit behind, but I just watched the November 15th Democratic Presidential debate last night. Aside from everything else, I couldn't help but thinking over and over that any candidate could instantly get a very good shot at my vote by simply saying:
"Wolf Blitzer, you are an idiot and an ass, please shut up."
But nobody did.
Fri 23 Nov 2007
Well, Thanksgiving is over already. I slept through most of it. We're not doing the big meal thing for a couple more hours though. I figured I'd get some extra stuff done during the extra free day. But of course I didn't.
Thu 22 Nov 2007
Wed 21 Nov 2007
Sensitivity to Fire
Almost as soon at the temperatures dropped below about 60 it seems absolutely everybody around where we live started using their fireplaces and wood burning stoves and such. And the weather around here is such that the smoke does not go away. It hangs over everything.
Me being sensitive to such things, means that as soon as this happens, I start having a tight chest and breathing becomes more difficult than usual, even when I'm on all the usual meds (Rx and otherwise) for those sorts of things.
I like fire as much as the next guy, but this always kinda sucks, cause it started several weeks ago, and I pretty much know it will last until spring.
Tue 20 Nov 2007
Up to Fourth
Not just a single poll, but the trend. Ron Paul has recently overtaken Mike Huckabee to be trending at 4th place in New Hampshire.
Well, OK, they are separated by a really tiny margin at the moment that undoubtedly is not significant. (6.8% vs 6.6% with pollster.com's method of figuring out a trend from the multiple polls.) The reality is that Paul and Huckabee have been neck and neck in New Hampshire for awhile and have been pretty much rising at the same pace. But hey, Paul in fourth place. Neat.
I guess wake me up again if he breaks 10% anywhere.
Mon 19 Nov 2007
Amy in Concert Again
Sun 18 Nov 2007
Curmudgeon's Corner: Oh... I licked the dog!
Sam and Ivan talk about:
- Mukasey Redux
- "The Siege"
- The Administration and the Courts
- Fundamentally Conservative Ideas
- Jumping to Conclusions from Single Polls
- Generational Communication Habits
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Look at me, I'm wearing a Vegetable!
To days to come. — All my love to long ago.
In all the coverage of Pakistan in the last week or so, lots of people from the President, to the Secretary of State, to various Presidential candidates have been all over TV saying, amongst other things, things to the effect of: "I have strongly urged President Musharraf to take off his uniform" or "Musharraf has said he would take off his uniform, and we urge him to do so sooner rather than later" or "President Musharraf must take off his uniform!".
Now, I know what they all mean. But I keep seeing in my head President Musharaff going on Pakistani national television, saying "FINE, I will take off the uniform!" then proceeding to rip off his clothes and then run around the studio naked.
Not that I *want* this image in my head mind you, but whenever I hear them urging him to take off his uniform, that is what comes to mind. I mean, really. All these politicians are doing is urging the man to get naked.
Yeah, yeah, they really mean resign his military commission and become a civilian. But that is NOT what they are saying...
Sat 17 Nov 2007
Damn Early Sunset
During the summer I usually leave work around 01:00 UTC. In the winter, since everybody seems to nonsensically do things an hour later, I usually aim at around 02:00 UTC. It varies according to what is going on of course.
But this is that time of year where it is getting dark earlier and earlier. Today sunset is at 00:32 UTC in Seattle. And it is getting about a minute earlier each day at the moment. It will be the earliest from about December 5th to December 16th, when the sun will be setting at 00:18 UTC. After that it starts getting better again.
But this time of year sucks the most. Making myself work and be productive at work after it is already dark is hard. I like daylight. Daylight is fun.
Now, having said that, I can often get into a very productive groove LATE at night... but that period right before and right after sunset I find really difficult.
Maybe I should just suck it up and move my whole daily work routine a couple of hours earlier in the day. That might do the trick and maximize use of daylight.
But it would also require me to go to be earlier if I don't want to be a zombie all that, and that sucks too.
So I'll just have to suck it up and force myself to be productive during those hours that suck for a couple of months until the sun comes out again in the spring.
I'm ready to just hibernate for the winter though. Why can't I do that?
(I note I complain about this almost every year about this time...)
Fri 16 Nov 2007
Huckabee and Others
Over the last couple days I watched a long form (hour plus) item that was originally broadcast on C-Span a few weeks ago where Gov Huckabee took questions from a group of high school students and answered them taking however much time he liked.
A few thoughts on this... one, it was refreshing to see this kind of format instead of the soudbite things you get in the debates... it is nice to see someone actually having time to articulate and explain their positions. I'm trying to watch more of these type of things as we get closer to the end of the pre-primary season.
Second, I may disagree with Huckabee on quite a few things, but he seems like an honest forthright guy who is actually telling you what he believes. And it seems like he has spent a long time thinking about his positions, they aren't just reflexive reactions, or the results of polling or focus groups.
This is also refreshing.
I doubt I would ever vote for Huckabee. But I realized that I would NOT be upset if this man was elected President. He would do some things I didn't like in areas where we dissagree. But there are other areas where he seems reasonable and moderate and would just do a decent job. He reminds me a bit of George H W Bush... strongly held beliefs in a few areas, but basically a good guy trying to do what is right, and willing to be practical and compromise when needed. Huckabee probably wouldn't be my choice, but it seems he would be "OK".
This led me to think for a second, forgetting which candidates I would actually CHOOSE and who was my preference, which of them would I actually be UPSET about taking the Presidency.
So looking at the current top six in each party, here is what I came up with... I'd be "OK" with *all* of the candidates *except* the two front runners. Rudy Guiliani and Hillary Clinton. I'd be pissed, upset, and worried about either one of them becoming president.
Paul, Thompson, McCain, Romney, Huckabee... Edwards, Richardson, Obama, Gore, Biden...
I think I'd be OK with all of them, even if they were not my first or second choices. Now, some I am actually a little unsure about... Thompson and Romney fit into that category. I haven't spent enough time with either to really make a final call. I may yet find out things that move them into the "not OK" category. But for now...
The one thing I am apperantly sure of is that I strongly dislike both of the front runners.
I really hope the people in second and third pick up some more momentum and manage to knock them out of front runner status.
The idea of the two of them being the primary choices next November is just such a horrible thought.
Paul keeps saying he won't, but I hope he reconsiders and runs 3rd party.
Then of course, the recent rumor is that Lou Dobbs is considering running too. He'd be in my "Upset" category, but a race with him in it sure would be fun to watch.
Thu 15 Nov 2007
Continue to Drag
Cold still hanging on. But mostly I am just tired. Bleh.
Wed 14 Nov 2007
Just a couple notes on recent presidential polls. I mentioned this on the last podcast. The media gets all hyped up whenever a single new poll result comes out that shows something surprising. In the most recent case it is Hillary's lead evaporating in several early states. Now, there maybe some things going on, but these polls are all extremely noisy. It is folly to ever look at the results of just one of them and try to claim anything.
Just mosey on over to pollster.com and look at the charts they produce putting together the results of many polls and looking at a combined over all trend.
With today's data, here is what we have on the early states:
Dem side first:
- Iowa - Clinton up by 4.3%
- New Hampshire - Clinton up by 17.3%
- Nevada - Clinton up by 17.4%
- South Carolina - Clinton up by 16.6%
- Florida - Clinton up by 27.0%
- Michigan - Clinton up by 19.3%
- California - Clinton up by 26.7%
- New York - Clinton up by 31.5%
Clinton is ahead everywhere, usually significantly so. In every state Obama is in the #2 slot... except California, where a decent number of people are still apperantly hoping for Al Gore to jump in. In that case Obama is 3rd right behind Gore.
Yes, it is pretty close in Iowa, and the way things work Iowa can have the potential to change everything... and we are still a month and a half or so out from Iowa. So a lot can happen. But don't believe the hype when one poll in Iowa comes out and all of a sudden people are saying everything has changed and Hillary is in trouble. That might happen. Frankly I hope it happens. I'd much rather have Obama than Clinton. But looking at the one poll is foolish. At the moment, although it may change, Hillary is still running away with this.
On the Republican side though, things are much more dynamic:
- Iowa - Romney up by 10.9% (Huckabee second)
- New Hampshire - Romney up by 9.3% (Giuliani second)
- Nevada - Giuliani up by 10.1% (Romney second)
- South Carolina - Giuliani up by 2.0% (Thompson second)
- Florida - Giuliani up by 13.2% (Romney second)
- Michigan - Giuliani up by 2.2% (Romney second)
- California - Giuliani up by 17.0% (Romney second)
- New York - Giuliani up by 34.5% (McCain second)
OK, just a little bit unsettled, with Romney doing his thing in Iowa and New Hampshire. But Giuliani is in the lead by decent amounts everywhere else... other than South Carolina and Michigan where it is close.
Second place is actually much more interesting on the R side. But it is as yet unclear how much that will actually end up mattering. In certain cases (especially in the first few states) who comes in second might actually have a large influence on the next few states...
Anyway, interesting stuff. But do look at the places like pollster that aggrigate poll results. If you are ever reading a story that says there is a new poll by "X" and then tries to draw conclusions based on the results of that one poll alone, just ignore it.... until and unless the results of that poll are backed up by the results of others.
Oh, and as a curiosity, of those early states Ron Paul is running at #6 in all of them except New Hampshire and New York, where he has now managed to squeak into fifth place.
Tue 13 Nov 2007
I've been fighting a cold for over a week now. It really sucks. Not bad enough to keep me in bed, or for the most part even from work. But just bad enough to keep me slightly miserable at all times.
Bleh. Bleh. Bleh.
Mon 12 Nov 2007
Diary of Hiram Harvey Hurlburt Jr: Chapter 4
I am not college educated, but I was once the cause of a sensation in President Bates classroom in Middlebury College. It was at the time of my Uncle Ward Bullard's scholarship there. He had promised me repeatedly, if I came to Middlebury to call on him and he would show me around. I was past my sixth year.
It happened one day I was out to call with my grandmother Hurlburt on my father's uncle Nathaniel Harvey. When I came there I was in great quest to see Middlebury College. My opinion of the institution were doubtless very extravagant. To my youth it was the position required. I had studied faithfully on the front page of Websters Spelling Book a wood cut that gave to you a Greek Temple, also a man with a boy by the hand, this boy was looking up to the man, who was pointing to the temple, the lower sign to the sight was "know thyself." Then above this was the word. "Knowledge." Then on a dome the highest elevation, the word "Fame."
I had arranged in my own mind that this College was the ultimate end to aspire to. Uncle Nathaniel's oldest son "Lafayette" was told to take me down there to see Uncle Ward. Lafayette understood all about the rooms and times of lessons, he was some three years older than myself, and had always lived in close acquaintance to the buildings and grounds. Lafayette took me first to Uncle Ward's room not finding him there, he went with me to the recitation room of the Senior Class whose teaching was presided over by the President. Lafayette pointed to the door and I opened and went in and to my surprize he did not follow.
The President was sitting there in black gown. And he inquired! "Who I wished to see?" Uncle Ward Bullard I replied. There was a general shaking of laughter in the class, which occupied one side of the room! The President then said, "Mr Bullard, You may see what the young gentleman wishes." My Uncle showed me over the Museum and it was a wonderful hour of sightseeing, and, as I look at it now it was a break in the quietness of that recitation room when I made the abrupt call.
This Lafayette had peculiar qualities. Sometime after he came out to Quaker Village and stopped at John Robbins my uncle, where my grandmother Hurlburt lived. Then he came down to our house giving me an invitation to go in the creek and bathe, at the end of the street there, was the usual bathing ground for the village. We both went in the water, and I found that I was much more use to swimming ??? there. Grandmother was sure my parents knew nothing about my being in the water, so she questioned me, "When I learned to swim?" This I could not answer as it seemed to me I had known how for a long time, and there was no time I could name when the art was learned.
There was considerable talk to father from grandmother and mother. I will explain: As many had comparatively been drowned in Otter Creek children and grown up persons - it was complained that the water had peculiar strangling qualities; but I have ascertained, since that the water is fairly average for purity to other streams in this State.
This winter a man came to our house and stayed several days, his business was to make all the shoes and boots for the coming year, as father has the leather from the tannery. The custom was to take the skins there, and they tanned for one half. This shoemaker's name was Nathanial Boyington. He went home Saturday nights, then came back Monday, as he commenced to drive the wooden pegs in the soles he broke them off on which he made a great "how-to-go". That we boys had been cracking butternuts with his hammer, Now nothing of the kind had happened so I concluded that he could tell things that were not so.
Some young men found he was visiting a house of ill repute; so they were equal to any lark, went there in a dark night, one of them was rigged up to impersonate the great enemy of mankind, fitted out with cloven feet, with a tail coiled up and resting on his left arm. He walked in where Boyington was sitting by the fireplace light. He spoke up "Nathaniel Boyington I have come for you!" Boyington's reply was "Ready Sar." It was reported that he was really frightened, and he stayed at his own domicile ever after.
(The full diary will be located here when complete.)
Very sleepy today. It has something to do with the darkness I think.
Sun 11 Nov 2007
Curmudgeon's Corner: It is a Cycle, It is all Connected
Sam and Ivan talk about:
- Guiliani Economic Advisor on Taxes
- Tax Plans and Pay as You Go
- Dollar Denominated Debt and the Coming Recession
- Effect of the Iraq War on the Economy
- Hillary's Recent Iowa Speech
- Obama's Recent Iowa Speech
- Primary Season Surprises
- Dynamics of Iowa
- Possibility of Front Loading Backfiring
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DVD: Fly Away Home
This weekend was time for a movie picked by me. THe next on my Netflix queue was "Fly Away Home", a kids movie from 1996 that I remember really wanting to watch at a time. Yeah, OK, fine, I was 25 and it was a kids movie. Whatever. I wanted to see it. But I never did. Until this weekend.
Now, neither Amy nor Brandy would agree to watch it with me. But I set up in the family room with the projector and watched it.
For those that don't know and didn't click through to the Wikipedia link on the picture, this is a movie about a young girl who adopts and orphaned flock of geese and eventually leads them on their southern migration by ultralight.
So well... I loved the movie. It is exactly the kind of movie that gets me going. Sappy. Sentimental. Cute. Happy ending. All that.
Yeah, I know. This is not the makings of a cinematic masterpiece to last the ages. And not the type of movie that is designed for a 36 year old male. But I like this kind. It is a sweet cute movie. So leave me alone and let me like my sappy kids movie!
Sat 10 Nov 2007
Today is just bleh.
Fri 09 Nov 2007
Watching the Confirmation
Thu 08 Nov 2007
US Troop Iraq Death Rate
On Tuesday the Political Arithmetik blog featured a post titled U. S. Monthly Deaths in Iraq that featured a chart showing the trends in the number of US Military deaths in Iraq over the last few years. It was interesting, but I wondered if the trend would look different if you looked at it as a rate and took into account the varying number of troops in Iraq over that time period. I emailed Professor Franklin asking just that. He hadn't examined it that way but pointed me at his data source at Brooking's Iraq Index. Although the first time I looked I was blind and didn't see it, this did have the total number of US troops as well as the deaths per month. So, dividing appropriately, this is what comes out:
The trend line is just a simple centered average of 7 months. (So, for instance, the trend in June is just the average of March through September.) There are definitely more sophisticated ways of marking a trend, but this is easy. :-)
As it turns out, even with the surge, the number of troops in Iraq hasn't actually varied THAT much, so it doesn't really tell you that much that's different than the trend in the raw death numbers in the original post that inspired this.
But, for me anyway, looking at this as a rate somehow seems a more satisfying measure of... what should you call it... the "risk of death" measure or some such. It compensates for the fact that when there are more troops present one would expect more to die, all other things being equal.
There does look like there is a noticeable drop in the last few months after the surge was in place... but the downward trend is really only the last five data points, but there have been other periods in the past with five points in what looked like a downward trend, but which disappeared into the variation once there were more data points.
So we shall see I guess.
Finally Time Machined
Time Machine FINALLY successfully finished a complete backup. After a week and a half of trying. Hopefully now the hourlies will work smoothly...
Looking Up At You
Wed 07 Nov 2007
I'm sure everybody knows by now about Ron's Paul's big haul of cash from this week. I was tempted to throw in a few bucks, but the timing isn't right for me. In any case, here is a relevant bit from The National Review blogs:
Paul in N.H.
(David Freddoso, The Corner, National Review Online)
So here's what a good run by Ron Paul looks like: He runs ads and spends a lot of time in New Hampshire. He boosts his name recognition among unaffiliated voters and Republicans. He wins over more Republican voters. Meanwhile, Hillary becomes a prohibitive favorite on the Democratic side, and so the unaffiliated voters decide they will skip their boring primary and vote for Paul in the GOP primary.
At that point, Paul's supporters run another big Internet fundraiser, drawing good press and bringing in a few million more effortless dollars to be spent on last two weeks. Other conservative candidates (Thompson, Tancredo, Huckabee) fizzle in New Hampshire, and Paul (along with Romney, probably) becomes one of the beneficiaries. He takes something like 20 or 25 percent, putting him in second place and making everyone re-think the race.
Far-fetched? Yeah, sure it is. But it's not nearly as far-fetched now as it was the day before yesterday.
Oh, that would so much be a news junkie's dream. Bring it on.
Tue 06 Nov 2007
OK, that is the end of the ballot. Regular blogging about things people who do not live where I do might possibly care about (but probably still don't) will resume on Wednesday.
For now... time for me to try to run and find a post office and or mailbox that hasn't had a last pickup yet. Maybe the mail room downstairs will do. Don't know. I'd rather find a real one.
Election Prep: Public Hospital District No 1 Commissioner District No 5
- Sue Bowman
- Gary F. Kohlwes
And the official page on them here
I like Bowman. She points out some of the same gripes as Hemstad and she's had a nice long career in health care. Sounds reasonable. Although again there is very little info here and I haven't spent any time digging for more. But given that, my vote goes to:
Election Prep: Public Hospital District No 1 Commissioner District No 3
And the official page on them here
There is very limited information here. But Hemstad brings up some specific gripes that seem legitimate and Anderson has been on the job a long time. With this limited amount of information, my vote will go to:
Election Prep: Bellevue School District No 405 Director District No 4
The official page on them here
Also, after the last one and before this one, I found this article
which goes more into where Sheila Killeen (who I already filled in the bubble for on the last line item on the ballot) and Michael Murphy (on this one) are coming from on the math.
And I'm not so sure I agree with them fully. They are into emphasizing computational mathematics over the more abstract ways of teaching math. I can understand where this is coming from, but I also stongly see the value of NOT teaching computational algorithms directly, but rather teaching how to think about problems and how to come up with the algorithms when needed.
However, I think the truth here is that which method is best depends highly on the child being taught. I do not think there is a one true right answer here. I think this is a perfect example where the method used should really be adapted on a per child basis depending on the child's learning style. Unfortunately, things are just not set up to allow for that sort of thing.
Given that, I guess I am OK with going with "more traditional" methods that Killeen and Murphy advocate in the case where you have to pick one primary method. But I would really hope that more flexibility is put in place, and the actual mix of the council would allow for a more hybrid method. For people who will be going into higher math levels, learning to think of math as a problem solving exercise rather than somewhere where you memorize and follow rules is crucial. But for making sure people have the basic skills first, you need a bit of the computation and "this is how it is" bit, especially in early grades. You really do need both.
But I will go ahead and cast my vote for:
Election Prep: Bellevue School District No 405 Director District No 2
- Sheila W. Killeen
- Peter Bentley
Official page on them here
Bottom line, I like Killeen's emphasis on math. There is limited information here, and I haven't done a ton of research. This is basically based only on her pamphlet blurb. BUt my vote will go to:
Sheila W. Killeen
Election Prep: Bellevue School District No 405 Director District No 1
There is again only one candidate for this position: Judy Bushnell.
Once again, she may be just fine, but I will always vote against anybody running unopposed if I have the ability to do so. Since there is a write in possibility, I will once again vote for myself. My vote goes to:
Samuel A Minter
Election Prep: Bellevue Council Position No 7
There are two candidates again:
The official page on them is here
I'm being short again because I don't have much time to finish this and get to a post office. But I like Keri Andrews I think. Andrews calls Noble out on some specific areas where she feels he has fallen short and she will do better. She says some OK things.
Noble is probably actually just fine too. There is nothing really objectionable in the things he says either. But I think this is one case where I will let my anti-incumbent, change is good type bias win. My vote will go to:
Election Prep: Bellevue Council Position No 5
There is only ONE candidate for this position: Claudia Balducci.
I know nothing about her, and I have not yet done any research on her like I normally would if this was a contested position. She is probably a fine person and probably a fine City Council member. However, I fundamentally believe that in a democracy nobody should ever run unopposed.
So I will not vote for her. I can do this because there is a write-in slot. So I will vote for myself.
My vote goes to:
Samuel A Minter
Election Prep: Bellevue Council Position No 3
And the official descriptions here
I didn't see anything really strongly compelling about either candidate here. But the incumbant does seem to have some experience and has been involved with some OK things. The challenger doesn't seem objectionable, but also doesn't seem to make any sort of case why she would be particularly better than her opponent. Therefore, I will vote for:
Election Prep: Bellevue Council Position No 1
Two candidates again:
- Grant Degginger
- John Robert Albertson
The page on them is here
There is also a bit more here
I was leaning toward John Robert Albertson at first. I liked some of his comments in the pamplet. But then I read his candidate statement in that last link. He is WAY too into major restrictions on what private people can do with their property. Example, he is against big houses because they are wasteful. As someone who aspires to someday having a big house on a lot of land.... no thanks.
As such, even though the incumbant doesn't really excite me and also has some issues, my vote will go to:
Election Prep: Sound Transit and RTID Proposition No 1
To reduce transportation congestion, increase road and transit capacity, promote safety, facilitate mobility, provide for an integrated regional transportation system, and improve the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of Washington, shall Sound Transit (a regional transit authority) implement a regional rail and transit system linking Lynnwood, Shoreline, Northgate, Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, SeaTac airport, Kent, Federal Way and Tacoma as described in the Sound Transit 2 plan, financed by the existing taxes approved by the voters in 1996 and an additional sales and use tax of up to five-tenths of one percent imposed by Sound Transit, all as provided in Resolution No. R2007-15; and shall a regional transportation investment district (RTID) be formed and authorized to implement and invest in improving the regional transportation system by replacing vulnerable bridges, improving safety, and increasing capacity on state and local roads to further link major education, employment, and retail centers as described in Moving Forward Together: A Blueprint for Progress â€“ King Pierce Snohomish Counties, financed by a sales and use tax of one-tenth of one percent and a local motor vehicle excise tax of eight-tenths of one percent imposed by RTID, all as provided in Resolution No. PC-2007-02; further provided that the Sound Transit taxes shall be imposed only within the boundaries of Sound Transit, and the RTID taxes shall be imposed only within the boundaries of the RTID?
Full explanation, pro/con statements and full text here
There are some other things in here thrown in for good measure about improving transportation infrastructure, but the bulk of this is about approving a tax increase in order to fund a new light rail network.
I am on the fence on this one. On the one hand, a train would be cool. And this one would go places where I would go. I could see this train being one I would ride sometimes. On the other hand, I don't really want to pay for it, and am generally luke warm at best about the notion of public transportation. It often (and certainly in this case) smacks me of attempted social engineering. They want to build a train so that I won't use my car so that I can pollute less and be better on the environment and whatnot. And they want to use public funds to do it.
If this was about selling some public land or access ways to a private company so THEY could build a train with their own money, and then charge people to use it and one day perhaps make a profit, I think that would be a no brainer for me. But it isn't. It is about taxing everybody to build it with public funds and then running it as public service. I have certainly enjoyed at times the public transit systems in certain cities. BUt I remain fundamentally a little uncomfortable with the government being the one doing such things. I'd much prefer that being a private enterprise. It is bad enough that the government has to deal with roads... but I get the logistical reasons why that almost has to be the case (at least in many cases).
Having said all that, I was still on the fence, cause while I have those high minded (but most likely impractical) philosophical objections... I like trains. And it might be cool to ride this one. And it would be nice to have it as an option.
But one comment from Brandy pushed me off the ledge and made me decide.
Brandy said that if they built a train, and if (as is also expected) they add tolls to the bridges over Lake Washington in the coming years, and taking the train into work ends up cheaper than driving my car, then she would expect me to usually take the train.
I like trains, but I like my car better. I like the train as an option, I don't think I'd like it as the default option. And I resent government trying to orchestrate things in such a way as to encourage public transportation over private cars. Congestion and the environment be damned. And plus this would add additional sales tax to every local purchase I make. And the price is quite possibly underestimated, so they will probably come back in a few years asking for even more. Screw that.
So, my vote is:
Election Prep: Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No 5
Two people on the ballot again:
And the officiall pamphlet info here
As usual with these local races, it is hard to really tell much just from their websites and their statements. It does make me wish I paid closer attention to local issues sometimes, but fundamentally my attention is more drawn to international and national affairs. The local stuff generally doesn't make much of an impression on me.
In this case BOTH of the candidates are advocating more openness, etc. They both say the usual sorts of things about wanting to make things better. One is the incumbent, the other says that while his opponant talks a good game, he doesn't actually act on it.
An article in the Seattle Times
helps here a bit to compare and contrast them. The stuff in that article solidifies me toward the incumbant. He seems to be pushing for things I agree with (Although not always very sucessfully) and the challenger seems to be more restrained and willing to go along with the status quo in certain cases. So, my vote goes to...
Election Prep: Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No 2
Once again two candidates, this time theoretically non-partisan:
And the official voter pamphlet here
These are going to get pretty short, as I am running low on time.
Anyway, from the vote pamphlet alone I was leaning toward Tarleton. I liked what she was saying about making things public, openness, etc. But then I went to her website. It was all about slamming her competitor, and it was very partisan focused for a supposedly non-partisan position. She just lost my vote on that alone. My vote is for:
[Edit about 5 minutes later]
Hmmm.... OK. That was a bit flip. I spent a few more minutes reading stuff on both websites. I do like the transparency stuff. And in general I was more attracted to what she was saying policy wise. Bob Edwards site was pretty sparse on future plans as opposed to past things. I will revise this. I'll go ahead and vote for Tarleton in spite of the bad taste the front page of her website left on me. So my vote is... really this time...
Election Prep: King County Assessor
Once again, I don't really think this should be an elected position, but since it is, two candidates:
And the official info packet thing here
Hmmm. Once again not really a lot to go on. And this is the sort of position where there are not really "policy differences" to distinguish candidates. I generally have a natural bias against incumbents in most things, but in this sort of professional position that shouldn't really be political anyway, I'll go with the gut who has been doing it for 15 years and seems to be doing an OK job. So my vote goes to:
Election Prep: King County Prosecuting Attorney
I'm really not sure positions like this should even be elected positions. It seems to be that they should be somewhat insulated from that process, and an appointment and confirmation process, perhaps combined with a single term limit or something would be a better way to deal with these sorts of positions. But in this case we indeed have two candidates:
And the official voter pamphlet descriptions here
I also note that I'm not sure these should be partisan positions either. Oh well.
From their websites and their brief statements, I really find nothing of substance to compare the two. They both are against crime and will protect the public. Yup, OK, Fine. There really isn't much basis here alone for me to make an informed decision. If I'd been diligently following local news for the past few years maybe I'd have more of an opinion, but I don't.
I think though I am tipped toward Satturberg by the first few sentences of his statement:
I am the Interim Prosecuting Attorney for King County. I have spent the past 17 years as Norm Maleng’s chief deputy prosecutor, and have experience in every aspect of running the office.
Today our office is non-political and professional. I want to keep it that way.
That’s one reason why I have the support of more than 500 local attorneys, Democrats, Republicans, business leaders and unions.
These include our nonpartisan Sheriff Sue Rahr, the Democratic prosecutors for Pierce and Snohomish Counties, as well as prominent Republicans.
I was appointed to this post by the unanimous vote of the King County Council.
I like the bipartisanship and "non-political" bits. I unfortunately have no good way of evaluating this morning if they are true, but even the fact that it is mentioned as a prominent item is a good thing I think.
I am very weakly inclined and am having a hard time distinguishing these too from the information I can get quickly, but I'll vote for:
Election Prep: King County Initiative 25
Initiative 25 is a proposed ordinance. If approved by voters, it would place a charter amendment on the November 2008 general election ballot that would ask: “Shall the King County Charter be amended to provide that the position of county director of elections be created as a nonpartisan elected office?” Should Initiative 25 be adopted so that this charter amendment will be placed before voters in November 2008?
Explanation, pro/cons and full text here
OK, let me get this straight, this is a vote to ask if I think that in the next election we should vote on something? What kind of asinine process requires a step like this, a vote to agree to vote later? OK, I know legislative bodies do that kind of thing all the time (and it is stupid there too). But it is idiotic to require this sort of thing in a public election. Have a process that lets you get something on the ballot directly if you must, but a vote on if you should have a vote? Come on.
In any case, looking briefly at what is proposed to be put on the NEXT ballot, I think I would vote against it. But this is NOT a vote on the merits of that proposal, this is just a vote on if the other thing should be voted on later. And I'm OK with that. The question here is really, "is this an issue that should be decided by the people directly rather than by another process". The issue at hand is a structural one. Basically if the County Director of Elections should be an elected position rather than an appointed one. I am generally against bringing POLICY matters directly to the people, that is what a legislature is for, and on most issues I think direct democracy is folly, and the representative nature of a legislature provides a direct buffer. But for structural issues, I think a direct vote is sometimes appropriate. So I will go ahead and vote:
Election Prep: WA Substitute House Joint Resolution 4215
The legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment on investment of higher education permanent funds.
This amendment would authorize the investment of money in higher education permanent funds as permitted by law, and would permit investment in stocks or bonds issued by any company, if authorized by law.
Explanation and pro/cons here
. Full text here
Article 8, Section 5 of the Washington State constitution prohibits "using state funds for gifts or loans to any individual, association, company or corporation" and Article 12, Section 9 prohibits the state from "subscribing to, or having an interest in, the stock of any company, association, or corporation". These both sound like very sound provisions that represent the proper distance a state government should have from the private sector.
Apparently over the years there have been a number of amendments carving out more and more exceptions to these rules for various funds set up for one thing or another. This amendment would make another exception, this time for a fund which backs state funding for various higher education initiatives.
The argument is that by allowing investments in corporate stocks, you can get better returns, and therefore do more of whatever those funds were set up to do. The counter generally proposed is that investing in stocks can be risky. And indeed, sometimes it can be. But it also does generally in the long term do better than the alternatives over the long term. And the long term is what matters for this sort of fund.
However, I think that is irrelevant. The real issue here is not how the investments would do, or if it is risky or not, it is that by directly investing in corporate stock a conflict of interest is set up, and the state governments interests are now tied extremely directly to the interest of making sure the stock prices of the companies they invest in go up. There may be overall economic interests that align those interests any way in certain situations, but I think creating a direct state increase specifically in the rise of stock prices is highly unadvised. I think the previous amendments were a mistake when they carved out exceptions earlier. I think this would be another mistake. So, my vote is:
Election Prep: WA Engrossed House Joint Resolution 4204
The legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment on school district tax levies.
This amendment would provide for approval of school district excess property tax levies by simple majority vote of participating voters, and would eliminate supermajority approval requirements based on voter turnout in previous elections.
Explanation and pro/con statements here
. Full text here
In general I like supermajority requirements. Not just on taxes, but on most things. If we required 90% for everything, I think we'd be better off. The current constitution requires 60% approval (and a certain level of turnout) for approval of certain ax measures. The pro statement points out that this can result in some taxes not being approved, and therefore less money to spend on things (in this case generally schools.) Duh. But if it is important enough, 60% is not that high a bar, and according to the con statement, that bar is generally met.
Also, independent of all that, I somewhat dislike that the WAY it is done in the actual text is not to change the original text to eliminate the supermajority requirement, but rather by tacking at the end a "Not withstanding what was said earlier, it will be like this." There is probably some good reason to do it that way, but I don't like it, it makes reading the text less straightforward and makes it harder to determine the overall meaning without reading very carefully. I don't like that.
So, my vote is:
Election Prep: WA Senate Joint Resolution 8212
The legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment on inmate labor.
This amendment would authorize state-operated inmate labor programs and programs in which inmate labor is used by private entities through state contracts, and prohibit privately operated programs from unfairly competing with Washington businesses.
Explanation and pros/cons here
, full text here
Basically, right now prison labor is allowed, but only in programs run directly by the state. The current state constitution specifically prohibits that labor being contracted out to private parties. This would eliminate that restriction, allowing the state to contract out the prison labor to outside companies.
Now, in general I'm all for privatization, but I am very wary of government contractors in specific. The proponents point to this giving increased opportunities for inmates to work and therefore pay off debts and be more prepared to resume their position in society when they get out. I agree with the "con" position that there are better ways to do this. Including of course the state expanding inmate labor directly, instead of contacting to private parties to do it.
I don't think this is a good idea, and I think the existing provision of the state constitution is fine. So therefore, on this one my choice is:
Election Prep: WA Engrossed Substitute Senate Joint Resolution 8206
That's a nice mouthful. I am way behind on these things. Election day is today. My ballot has to be postmarked today, or I need to actually go and vote in person. I'm thinking I'll try to get it in the mail. I got up a little early to try to finish going over this before I have to head in to work. I'm also still feeling under the weather ever since Sunday and that sucks. Perhaps I should just stay home. Dunno. Anyway, for now, election stuff.
The ballot text of this one is:
The legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment on establishment of a budget stabilization account.
This amendment would require the legislature to transfer 1% of general state revenues to a budget stabilization account each year and prohibit expenditures from the account except as set forth in the amendment.
More complete explanation and pro/con statements are here
. Full text is here
On this one I think it is a good idea to have such a fund. If anything I would make the restrictions on its use more strict, not less. In general I am consistently against using state constitutional amendments to implement policy decisions. But I do not see this as a policy decision, I see this as a governmental structure issue, which I think is appropriate for an amendment. So, on this one, I'm going to vote:
DVD: Doctor Who: The Web Planet
This last weekend... no, wait, the weekend before that... the next DVD in rotation was another old Doctor Who episode. It was time for The Web Planet which was the 13th Doctor Who story. It was a First Doctor episode from 1965.
The basic plot involved giant ants (Zarbi), giant bee things (Menoptra) and these pill bug lazer things (Venom Grubs). Oh, and some sort of caterpillar thing that hopped (Optera). And it sucked.
Now, the standard for First Doctor Episodes is pretty low to start with. But this one was just pretty bad. I think the last one we watched, The Edge of Destruction was pretty bad as well, but it was also SHORT. This one was a full six episodes. We watched it over two different sittings. I just couldn't do it all at once, what with the ridiculous looking giant ants and such. I did like the Venom Grubs though. They were cute.
Anyway, once was definitely enough for this one.
Mon 05 Nov 2007
Curmudgeon's Corner: We Are Not Surprised
Sam and Ivan talk about:
- Sam's Fights with Leopard
- Aluminum iMac Freezes
- Laws and the President
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Sun 04 Nov 2007
First School Dance
All Hands 6
My sixth "All Hands" meeting at my employer was on Friday. They do three a year.
Sat 03 Nov 2007
Mukasey will be Confirmed
It seems that there are now more than 50 votes in the Senate to confirm the AG nominee. This is a shame. The whole waterboarding discussion was a distraction from the larger issue of which it was just a special case.
Namely, is the President obligated to enforce... and obey... the laws passed by the congress, or is the President allowed to substitute their own personal judgement in cases where they disagree. The fact that the President, and through them the entire executive branch, are subject to the law (at least until a law is contested and deemed unconstitutional) should be an absolute no brainer. It completely baffles me that there is apparently a huge portion of the public that just does not see this as an important pillar of our society. The fact that this belief is not a minimum requirement for an AG (or frankly anybody in government) deeply saddens me.
The fact that it isn't possible to even muster a majority of the Senate to be willing to stand up for their own power and authority in our constitutional system is just frightening in the extreme. As usual, Andrew Sullivan puts it well:
Schumer and Feinstein Surrender
(Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish, The Atlantic)
Every time the Democrats fold on these matters, Cheney tucks a precedent under his belt. Every time they cave into their cowardice and fear, another critical part of our liberty disappears. These precedents are designed to destroy the rule of law and replace it with the rule of a Decider. And they will last for ever, as will the right to torture, because this war is for ever. This is how democracies perish. The rule of law no longer has any party to defend it. The Republicans want no check on the powers of our de facto protectorate. And the Democrats have no spine. We live under the lawless protectorate we deserve. And such lawlessness is always the result when cowards refuse to confront bullies.
Fri 02 Nov 2007
A couple of days ago my income from the ads on this site passed the magical $5 mark. Well, OK, maybe not so magical. It took a little over two months to do that. At that pace I'll be rich any day now! Woo!!
Thu 01 Nov 2007
Sam in Costume
Amy in Costume