Molt Be Blog

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tag - Ugh.


1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog post about their eight things and include these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (Cross your fingers NOW that you're not one of them.)
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and that they should read your blog.

False, Pete.

In reaction to being tagged, here are eight random facts about me:

1. I can't swim worth a damn.
2. I went to Kindergarten in France and was beat up daily at lunch... by French kids.
3. I never beat Super Mario Brothers, but may or may not have nodded my head while listening to someone describe the final level.
4. My left foot is half a size smaller than my right, but it has nothing to do with club foot... I don't think. Might need to give mom a ring.
5. My shoe size is a 9.5 right, 9 left.
6. I'm hoping Pete's is a 9.5 left, 9 right and we have similar taste in footwear.
7. I'm not kidding about any of this.
8. I started the first "spread this or you will die" blog chain. Tell 8 people this in the next 8 seconds or you will die 8 times.

People I'm tagging below and Pete's post that tagged me.

1. Chris M. at Blogs Are Stupid
2. nick
3. HarlanTurk
4. AP at Just Off The Boat
5. Corbett3000
6. Bart
7. I need more friends with blogs that weren't already taken by Pete
8. See #7


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


My company sets up goals for everyone each quarter. A measure for each goal is also set up, as well as scorers who rate me on my ability to meet the measure. Ten percent of my pay is contingent on my overall score on these goals. This payment can be made in the form of cash or vacation time as decided by me.

One goal is always a Quality Assurance goal, wherein one or more of the clients I've worked with for more than 40 hours is randomly selected and asked to fill out a survey. Another is a billing goal, which asks for me to meet a dollar amount that works out to about 5.5 billable hours per day. Given vacations and the number of non-billable meetings I'm in, this isn't actually the easiest goal to meet (especially since everyone leaves the office by 6pm at the latest). After those goals, everyone is supposed to set up some personal goals that address what we do outside of work. These don't count for much of a percentage of the entire score, but are a great motivator. In my case, the goal for the 2nd quarter was to enroll in a writing class and the goal for the 3rd quarter is to actually complete the homework for said class, which is the 30 minutes of writing that I've been neglecting to do every day. The goal started scoring on Monday and I've been doing pretty well since.

On Sunday afternoon, the Mac Book Pro, which I've been sorely disappointed with, decided to die. I went to open iTunes and the laptop threw an error dialog box that contained a glowing button and no text. I didn't click the button (that would just be stupid); instead, I decided that it was time for a reboot. Upon reboot, I was presented with a "do not enter sign". I googled "Do Not Enter Sign" in various configurations for at least half an hour before calling tech support. I would later learn that the "do not enter sign" or "prohibitory sign" was the old "broken folder icon" from OS X 10.2, which has been upgraded in its lingo, but not fixed with some kind of written explanation in OS X 10.4. (Macs are great and all, but they could really just shut the hell up with the awesome design elements when it comes to the symbols that show you you're going to lose all your data.)

On the phone with tech support, I learned that the prohibitory sign is a symbol of "massive kernel failure" and it was recommended that I try to get what data I could off of the computer by firewire-ing to my other mac and copying. This proved fruitless as I could only connect to it through the terminal (you know, the text interface) and even then couldn't get a directory listing of any of the folders.

I don't keep a lot of permanent information on the laptop as a rule. I've had one stolen before and realized that keeping the data on an external drive at home was a safer bet. In the case of the Mac Book, the only thing that I had on it that I hadn't saved was the folder full of daily writings for the class I'm taking. All gone! It's OK, though. There wasn't much there to speak of. The whole exercise is about getting words on a page, not actually reading them later (hence the fantastic term "crap-draft" to refer to the first things you right down... like this!).

So here I am.... no daily musings to speak of before this one and only ten minutes into my total writing time for today.

On Monday I counted writing time as time spent retyping the first five pages of one of the pieces I'd been working on for class that only exists now as a fifteen page print-out that's the combination of the two-and-a-half blog entries that I wrote after R and I went to India. It's actually a lot more fun to write it when it's not in a public forum since I get to use R's real name and generally not consider what others are seeing. Then again, paper may be even more permanent than the internet as it isn't subject to power outages.

On Tuesday I had class and counted all of the exercises that we did as my writing assignments. We had a few interesting exercises assigned, but the one that really brought forth some interesting stories asked everyone to close their eyes and try to remember a summer job through all their senses. Aurally, Visually, Nose-umm... -ally (Olfactorily?).

The most fantastic part about the whole exercise was listening to what everyone had come up with after fifteen minutes of scribbling and realizing that everyone had really loved their summer jobs. Whether it was cutting grass out next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, working landscaping in Vermont or the iced cream parlor in Michigan; each speaker's face lit up when they were allowed to spin their yarn.

I had the same feeling when I was sitting there describing my own summer job.

Coming up on the summer after my Freshman year of college, I started looking for a job out where my grandparents lived in Estes Park, Colorado. Besides getting to see them, which I rarely did on account of how far away they lived, the weather there was a hell of a lot better than Maryland and I really wanted to drive out there to see what a road trip on my own was like.

I had Grandpa look around in the local papers to see if there were any jobs and he sent me back one that asked for a roofer's assistant. Having helped my dad roof two houses previously, I knew a thing or two about tar-paper and shingling and called them up. They were happy to have me; I was willing to work for beans because I was living with my grandparents and wasn't attached to a contracting company.

After the spring semester ended, I went home to visit my Mom and Dad in New York. My Dad was excited about me doing a summer job that involved manual labor. Given my tendency towards all things computer-related, I can't help but blame him when I think back on it now. He made a point of taking me out to buy a pair of "good boots".

"You want good boots that won't let a nail go through your sole. Have I ever told you about the time that I stepped on a nail? Yyyyow!" He said, crossing his eyes.

I walked out of a work-boot store somewhere near Carmel, New York the proud owner of a pair of $80 steel-soled, steel-toed boots that where the most expensive footwear I'd ever worn before that day and I still have almost ten years later. These things were amazing. Nothing hurt. I spent an afternoon kicking rocks with my toes and showing my mom that I could drop heavy objects on them. Looking back, I'd say it was childish, but I'm still just as excited about them today and might write the rest of this while wearing them... Nope. Too lazy.

On a Tuesday, I started the drive from New York to Colorado in my four door, 1987 Toyota Camry Hatchback. Years before, a girlfriend had nicknamed the car "the noisy cricket" due to the on-off squealing sound that the engine made. I never liked the nickname, but never thought of my own so it stuck. Other than some boring nights in low-budget motels, a cracked oil pan and my window falling into the door in the middle of Kansas while it was raining (it rains in Kansas in June?) the trip was uneventful and three days later I pulled into my grandparents' driveway with exactly 2,001 miles on the trip-odometer.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon with the roofing gig starting on Monday. I spent Saturday and Sunday chatting with Grandpa, reading any of the two dozen magazines lying around the house and getting my stuff moved into the basement next to the grow-lamps for grandpa's Colorado Tomatoes. Grandpa and Grandma have been retired in Estes park since 1965. They were both the children of farmers in Illinois, both taught high-school (Grandpa Physics, Grandma English) and both retired at 50 to move to the place they'd always gone on vacation. They're both still kicking and have now been retired longer than they ever worked a job.

While they may not seem old in their independence, the grandparents' age shows in their eating times. Breakfast is at 5am, lunch is at 11am and dinner starts promptly at 5. Due to their lack of a dish washing machine, each meal is followed by a wash and dry session. Luckily, the air is so dry in the mountains of Estes Park that drying can be accomplished by lightly waving a dish or a glass in the air for thirty seconds.

At 5:30pm on my first Sunday there, a phone call interrupted dinner. It was Cindy from the developer's office of the company I'd been hired by to roof. The project that I'd been scheduled to work on had been canceled.

"I drove two thousand miles for this job," I told Cindy.

"I'm sorry. I understand. I think that there might be some jobs at the gas station at the bottom of the hill.

I stammered a bit, but didn't have any kind of comeback. In fact, being me, I probably ended up saying something like "I understand. It's not your fault. Thanks anyway." and then promised myself to write them a nasty letter that I never sent. How passive-aggressive can you get.

I spent the next week looking in papers for other jobs. Being a bit new to the job market (my previous jobs had been found through friends) an ad caught my eye that read "GREAT PAY. NO OFFICE. MAKE YOUR OWN HOURS." After a forty-five minute drive down the valley from Estes and another forty-five North I found myself in a tiny conference room of an office in a building of an office park straight out of Office Space being sold on the idea of selling knives. Again, being young, I don't think I recognized that knife-selling was a pyramid scheme immediately, but I did recognize that it wasn't something I wanted to do. The selling strategy was to start demonstrating the amazing cutting power of these knives to friends of your parents and other relatives and to then get the names of their friends so that you could demonstrate the amazing cutting power to them. The salesman, Steve, demonstrated the cutting power for us by easily slicing through a piece of rope with one of the knives from his case. If we wanted to sell knives, we would have to make a $220 deposit on our own demonstration case. I grew skeptical. Steve said we should take a break and asked me if I would walk outside with him.

"I could tell by the look on your face that you might not be into this, and that's OK."

"OK," I said. "Can I go?"

"You probably should," he said.

I walked out to the parking lot with a feeling like I'd done something wrong. It wasn't that I'd been denied a job or anything - who wants to sell knives - it was that I wasn't able to conceal my emotions during the demonstration of cutting power. I should never have felt that way. My emotional candor released me from could have been at least another hour of listening to Steve prattle on about how great knives are or, even worse, a career selling knives to my grandparents friends.

Later, Grandpa shook his head as I told him the story.

"Why couldn't they just tell you that it was a job selling knives before having you drive all the way down to Fort Collins?" He asked.

If I'd been smarter then, I would have said: "I guess they just don't have enough faith in their own product to tell people what it is."

But instead I probably said something like: "I don't know."

In any case, They were glad that I wasn't going to try to sell them or their friends knives.

A few days later, I found a job waiting tables at a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain that grandpa and grandma lived halfway up and ended up working there the rest of the summer.

What reminded me of the whole experience and why I bothered to write this all down, was when I recalled how I felt physically while I was working at the restaurant and my first immediate thought was how much much feet and knees hurt. I realized, thinking back, that the uniform for the restaurant had require brown shoes and that I'd only brought one pair that were steel-toed and steel-soled. Despite weighing five pounds apiece, I wore those boots every day of work that summer and only now wonder if it was just sour grapes at having lost a job that I traveled 2,000 miles for the day before I started.


I Thought I Was Done Working at 2am

But here I am... oh well, at least it's for a good cause and I'm in charge. I volunteered for this piece of the project and will suffer the consequences. No time for writing here as I have php code to type somewhere else. explode() this implode() that;
explode(",","blah, blah, blah") becomes array ([0] => blah, [1] => blah, [2] => blah) You get the idea (it's boring).
Here's the latest spam to make it through the filter!

From: Randi Hooker
Subject: graduate student pulled
learned by those

Hi. Are you doing good? Email me at only. I am lonely girl. I will reply with my pics
academy report says. complaint. However it for your kids if you mind. However it must

You have to love that name. It says it all (unlike the message, which doesn't say much of anything).


Monday, July 23, 2007


I'm really tired. Too tired to write. But not too tired to paste my favorite spam of the day (this one actually made it through Google's filter)

Subject: when to stop blogging
From: Allan Duarte
it struggling with academic

Good afternoon. How is the day going? Email me at only. I am nice girl. If you would like to see some of my pictures.

balanced with plenty out my final

I like the ending the best. I have no idea what it means. It might be just a bunch of random words... or it could mean something very dirty.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day... ok, I have no idea.

I wrote some stuff on Monday night for class, but have been so swamped at work that there's no time to blog it as well. This is the last week that I schedule a website launch and any major work on anything else at the same time. In the meantime, I found this awesome warning label on the bureau from a curling iron that R bought. It can burn eyes, but can it burn... noses? Eyebrows? (not mine, of course)


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Day Two? Wait. No. Three.

I didn't find time to write for the mandatory half hour yesterday. Given that it was only day two of my attempts to meet the requirement, I could say it was either a pathetic showing or a habit that will take some getting used to. I think I'll go with the latter.

Yesterday, R and I rented a Zipcar and drove down to the jewelry place in VA where I got her engagement ring. Sometime earlier in the week, one of the small stones in the ring had fallen out and we needed to get it replaced. The jewelry store is run by three brothers from Korea and located in a strip mall somewhere near Dunn Loring.

Driving down Lee Highway and Rt 50 reveals an American landscape that is vastly different from downtown DC and probably more akin to what you'd find somewhere in the Midwest... except for all the Vietnamese grocery stores. The four lane highway undulates over little hills blanketed in cars and SUVs waiting at any of what seem like 10,000 stoplights. A small strip of grass separates the main road from an access road on either side. The grass has grown tall and started to seed. Plastic bags and cigarette butts dot the shoulder and are caught in the long grass. More strips of uncut grass separate the access roads from the parking lots in front of strip malls. The strip malls repeat the same basic stores: a Chinese carry-out, a nail salon, a hair salon, a convenience store, a real estate office, and a gift store that sells mylar heart-shaped balloons, teddy bears, cards and little porcelain statues of dolphins and angels. Occasionally, a larger parking lot is encountered in front of one of the big box Wal Marts, Targets, K-Marts, and your lesser Ross' and Marshals.

With the same stores repeating endlessly, It's easy to not recognize where you're driving down these roads. There are no more unique landmarks, just street names or recognizable traffic back-ups (“We must be close to Glebe road,” you catch yourself thinking as you wait for ten minutes as the stop light ahead runs its cycle five times letting a trickle of cars through.

After dropping off the ring to have the stone replaced, R and I headed back down Lee Hwy to look for a suit for me at Sym's. I'd never been to Sym's before, but found their selection of ugly pleated pants vast. Pants aside, I ended up with a good tan suit that I'll get altered next weekend if I don't find one better between now and then.

Searching for something to eat afterwards amongst the vast stip-malls off Lee Highway proved nerve-racking. We ended up at eating some Pho at a Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon Cafe. The soup wasn't bad, but the beef in both of ours had that rainbow thing going on that's usually reserved for the roast beef at a Subway. According to the Internet (where else?) this iridescence is caused by the combination of the muscle fiber structure of the meet and water droplets; the effect is enhanced when phosphates are used to increase the amount of water that the meat can hold. No matter what the science is behind it, rainbow meat still looks bad in my soup. R and I both left most of it on the side... looking at the reasons for iridescence now, I won't do the same thing the next time.

After we picked up the ring, we had some extra time in the Zipcar and spent it driving around Columbia Heights looking at houses. We might be moving in year or two and the possibility of finding something affordable and big enough is a lot better up north. Also, there are a lot of excellent hipster bars up there that could use me as a customer.

We returned the car around 5pm and headed home for a bit before going over to PC's apartment for his birthday party. An enjoyable evening was had by all, including the fun of getting into a long winded argument about single-payer health care that ended in only minor cursing. Hooray! For now, I need to get ready for another week.


Friday, July 13, 2007


Almost Done
I'm taking a writing class at the USDA grad school one evening a week. As part of it, we're supposed to write for 30 minutes everyday about something or other. I haven't been, but figure that it might be a motivator if I just post whatever I write up on here. The class is Creative NonFiction, which is supposedly the art of writing about the mundane. With that in mind, I described my morning.

I wake up around 8am after snoozing the alarm about thirty times. Currently, it's set to a Justin Timberlake song that is far better suited to romantic encounters than waking up. R has already woken up, showered, dressed and left for work by about 7:30am. Our morning encounters are limited to me babbling randomly in a state of torpor while she gets ready and a kiss goodbye before she goes out the door. I step over a cat and into the next room to open the laptop. I left it running last night because some podcasts were downloading in iTunes and I didn't want to just turn it off in the middle. I don't know why I bother, given that I never listen to the podcasts I download anyway. Who has the time? I click over to my “most played” playlist and hit the first item, NPR on WNYC in New York. I grew up on WNYC and can't seem to let it go despite not having lived in New York for ten years. Listening along to “Morning Edition”, I read email and the news until about 8:15 when I go to shower, brush my teeth and get dressed. Before leaving for work I go through my standard check to make sure that I have everything: laptop, any mail that needs to be sent, wallet, keys, cell phone, iPod, headphones, cell phone again. By this time it's usually about 8:45. On the rare occasion that I'm running ahead of schedule I will inevitably be unable to find my keys. I will look for them for at least seven minutes before giving up and using the spare set – partly because I don't really know where the spare set is. After looking for seven minutes, I will take a deep breath and remember that I put the keys either under a magazine on my bedside table or in the pocket of my jeans from the day before that I've already checked once, just not thoroughly. Just before I'm about to walk out the door, I'll remember the cat – which has been meowing all morning – and empty it's litter box and fill food or water if R hasn't done it already. With the whole mess of laptop wires, mail, keys, etc. shoved into my bag, I walk out the door, realize I forgot to close the window (which, since we had someone come in through an open window last year, is something I'm more conscious of now), go back in, close the window, look for my keys again, because I had them in my hand just a second ago and set them down to close the window, find them and then leave the house.

In other news, I finally go around to installing parallels on the mac so that I could once again take advantage of the bliss that is (no only available through the alltunes PC application). As such, I was able to download some albums I've been looking forward to, including the new Kings of Leon, Interpol, some Feist albums I've been meaning to get, the new Kaiser Chiefs album (mainly due to that damn "ruby" song stuck in my head) and the new Rufus. All good stuff. Out.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I'ts Official: Bush Can do Whatever The Hell He Wants

Commuting Libby's sentence is the cherry on top of the Executive Power cake. God forbid that Libby should have to serve a single day of prison time, "Stopping short of issuing a pardon, Mr. Bush issued a statement Monday sparing Libby from jail, but he left in place a $250,000 fine and probation for the ex-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. The president's announcement came just hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Libby could not delay his prison term." [npr] It only makes sense that Bush waited until every last judge and appeal had confirmed that Libby was guilty before agreeing that, yes, he was guilty, but that doesn't mean he should have to be punisihed with jail time for it. I mean, really! It's a non-violent offense and jail is excessive. Now pot-smokers? Those people should be locked up. Brilliant.

The Post reports that Bush consulted with few when making the decision, but this is partly explained by another post article from yesterday that seemed designed to encourage sympathy for A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease. Of course he's at Ease! He can do whatever the hell he wants and only has to answer to some "God" that he thinks is OK with torture, capital punishment and pardoning of Cheney's former Chief of Staff. Granted, the last of these isn't nearly as important as the first two, but that's really just the point. How long did Bush spend thinking about commuting the sentence? Did he, like me, not even know what "commuting" was until a few days ago? Bush wakes up at 5:30am and is in the Oval office at 6:30am. He takes a break around dinner and then works until 9pm. He also takes weekends off and has taken more vacation than all former presidents and all of Europe combined. Why is he taking the time to even think about someone as tiny as Libby? There are much bigger problems in the world. The wife is of the opinion that this deal was struck long ago: Libby would accept the blame and the POTUS would commute/pardon him. Wife also doubts that Libby will pay the $250,000 himself.

This is all part of a much larger push by the President, Cheney and their cohorts to drastically increase the power fo the executive branch. As featured in a New Yorker article of a few months ago, the power of the Executive Branch is increasing thanks in large part to a crazy asshat named David S. Addington, who's Wikipedia entry reads like a who's who of neo-con jackasses:
David S. Addington - Asshat

Addington was also a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan for one year in 1987, before becoming Reagan's deputy assistant. He was Republican counsel on the Iran-Contra committee in the 1980's. From 1989 to 1992, Addington served as special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, before becoming the Department of Defense's general counsel in 1992.

From 1993 to 2001, he worked in private practice, for law firms Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz and Holland & Knight, and the American Trucking Associations. He headed a political action committee, the Alliance for American Leadership, set up in large part to explore a possible presidential candidacy for Mr. Cheney.

Addington's influence strongly reflects his hawkish views on U.S. foreign policy, a position he had apparently already committed to as a teenager during the late phase of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s.

Addington has consistently advocated that under the Constitution, the President has unlimited powers as commander in chief during wartime. In October 2005, Addington was tapped to become the Vice President's chief of staff, replacing I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who had resigned after being indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. He is the legal force behind over 750 signing statements President Bush has added to bills passed by Congress. Addington was a legal advisor to President Reagan, and suggested that such signing statements be used to exempt President Reagan from responsibility for the Iran-Contra scandal.

Addington helped to shape an August 2002 opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that said torture might be justified in some cases. He advocates scaling back the authority of lawyers in the uniformed services. He consistently advocates the expansion of presidential powers and Unitary Executive theory, nearly absolute deference to the Executive Branch from Congress and the Federal judiciary.

Addington was mentioned by title in "Scooter" I. Lewis Libby Jr.'s indictment for five felony charges related to the Plame affair, regarding the leak of the identity of a CIA officer.

In November 2006, the German government received a complaint seeking the prosecution of Addington for alleged war crimes.

The Post has a good blurb on Addington here: Cheney's Cheney. All bad things. I wonder what the National Review has to say about all this. Oh, that's right, it was Appropriate Presidential Mercy. I guess every story has two sides. Finally, if you really want to read a ridiculous amount about Addington, try the 9 page article in US News from back in May here.

Granted, Addington and co have done nothing to increase the power that the President has to pardon, commute and otherwise grant mercy. But what they have done is give enough power to the Executive Branch to make Bush think that this is going to fly... and I sure hope it doesn't. The Constitution gives Bush the right to commute whomever he wants and this is something that should remain intact. What shouldn't remain intact is Bush's confidence that he can get away with doing whatever he wants. This kind of behavior is indicative of Bush's lack of respect for the will of the people. If all the terrorism scares in recent days don't tell us that Bush's policies aren't working, what will? The man needs to be taken to task.