Saturday, April 05, 2008

1754 Dropping Years

Saturday, April 5, 2008

B. F. Skinner: "Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."


I've never used much of anything on my skin. Lately I've been wondering if maybe it's time to try a moisturizer. I had read that soy-based moisturizers do make a real difference, visible within two weeks. So I bought one that promised to give my skin a more youthful apppearance.

I was thinking it would even the tone, bestow a glow, fill in wrinkles.

It gave me acne.

Well, I guess that is a youthful look.

Friday, April 04, 2008

1753 MIL

Friday, April 4, 2008

Another blogger is rapidly being driven mad by a future mother-in-law. Reminded me of some past in-law problems.

For the entire year before Ex#2 and I got married, his mother went to mass every evening. Every evening. Every.

Then Ex#2 and I got married, and she stopped going except for occasional Sundays. I remarked to Ex#2 that I had thought she was very religious, what happened?

He told me that she had been going to church to pray that he wouldn't marry me.


She drove me crazy in the usual ways, small comments, demanding attendance every holiday (um, my family? Yoo hoo?), saving up work to kill me with every time we visited, blaming me if anyone caught cold after a visit or if anything had gone missing (the youngest son saw the opportunity, and used to lift stuff while we were visiting, because he knew I'd get the blame), the usual nutso stuff. This is the woman who, when a grandchild was diagnosed with TB, called and screamed at me for giving it to the kid, and demanded that I get tested. When my test was negative, they tested the rest of the family, and it turned out it was HER! (Gloat gloat.)

There was one way she hurt my feelings badly. She was a regional manager for a home-sales group that gave very expensive Swiss-made watches as sales bonuses. Every year, she got one or two, and gave them away. First one she kept. Next to her daughter. Next to her middle son's wife. Then her youngest son's girlfriend. Then her best friend A. Then her best friend B. Then her cleaning lady. Then a high school-age friend of her daughter. Then virtual strangers, one after the other. I never got one. I got the message.

She was not an idiot. She was not meddlesome. She was just plain nasty mean.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

1752 Psycho Ex-Girlfriend

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I have to tell this story backward.

At dinner with my man on Monday, he told me a story. The following may not be his exact words, but it's close enough.

He said there was this woman that he'd been friends with. Not a romantic or sexual thing, just friends, they enjoyed each other's company. Over the past year or year and a half, they'd gone out clubbing together, to dances, and to parties, and sometimes just the two of them for drinks or dinner, or a bad movie. But it was not dating. He often paid, but that didn't make it a date, just an acknowledgement of a difference in disposable income.

[I had a flash of jealousy. I thought, "Why have you never mentioned her before? Hey, if you wanted to go out to all these parties or whatever, why not call me?" I was hurt.]

He went on: "And then in, oh, about last October, we took an extended weekend trip together. [He and I were really heating up then, imagine my shock hearing this!] We didn't share a room at the hotel, although I paid for her room. I got the distinct impression she was taking advantage of me. She seemed to take a lot for granted. She demanded my undivided attention, without feeling a need to return it."

[At this point I relaxed. I recognized the story, and was impressed that without seeming to listen, he had really heard and understood some bits and pieces of things I'd said a few months ago.]

"After that, things went downhill. She acted like the relationship was much more than it actually was. She got very demanding. She tried to tell me how she thought I should act. She got jealous of my relationships with others. It was getting weird, and I decided to cut it off. Along about November I told her I couldn't spend time with her any more. Done. Over .

Fortunately or unfortunately, we are both involved in certain activities, so I can't avoid her, but we are civil, even friendly, when we do meet. Things were fine for the past four months.

And then, yesterday, we were at a meeting, which happened to be held at her home, and she suggested that we get together after the meeting and 'catch up' on what's been going on. I didn't see anything wrong with that, but I didn't want to be alone with her in her home, so I suggested that I treat her to dinner.

Imagine my shock when, toward the end of the meal, she looked up at me beaming, and said,
'Oh, I'm so happy we're getting back together!'

That's the Psycho Ex-Girlfriend Syndrome! She thinks we were 'just on a four-month break'"!

He looked at me and said, resignedly, "What can I do? There's only one cure. I have to sleep with her. I have to sleep with her, and make it so bad she won't want me any more."

By this time I was cracking up.

I said I was telling this story backward. The above happened later in the evening. Earlier in the evening, I had told him that I'd had dinner with the female friend I'd had so much trouble with last year. The woman I had finally told in November that I couldn't be around her anymore, I was tired of her mistreating me, and I couldn't put myself in her line of fire any more. I said that she'd said the scariest thing I'd heard in a year. During dinner she looked at me and beamed, and said, "I'm so happy we're renewing our friendship!"

I said that I about fell off my chair and I didn't know what to say. The very idea that she thinks that scares me.

He choked on his drink, roared with laughter, and said, "You've got a psycho ex-girlfriend! You know what you have to do now, don't you?"

Blank look from me.

"You have to sleep with her! It's the only way!"

And then later, he told that story. It was the story of me and this woman. I was impressed. There aren't too many men who could show that degree of awareness and understanding of a bad interpersonal relationship in which they have no interest.

...Although I don't necessarily agree with his solution.

1751 Tax Paper

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Abraham Lincoln: The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.


I forgot to take the garbage can down the driveway last night. This is serious. It's packed full, and Jasper's been eyeing the large bag in the kitchen that's been sitting there for two days waiting for room in the can outside.


Piper is pressing me to get the docs to him so The Angel can do my taxes. I'm feeling guilty because I haven't done it yet. I spent much of today sorting papers to try to pull it all together.

Over the past two months of volunteering at the tax clinics, I now feel really guilty. The clinics were to help people who earned too little to have filed taxes in the past. If they want to get that "economic stimulus" rebate, they have to file this year, even though they don't owe anything. People were coming in with no other income but the pittance they get from welfare or social security. One or at most two hunks of 1099 paper in hand, or letters with a number handwritten in a blank.

I'd heard that the rebate was $600 for an individual, and $1200 for a couple. At the last clinic I was horrified to hear that's only for people who do pay taxes. For these folks, it's only $300 and $600! My comment was that the people who need the most get the least. It doesn't seem fair.

So, pulling my paper together, I am almost embarassed to note that I have more than 17 separate sources of income. Yeah, most are only a few dollars a year, but, still, I guess it adds up. I have difficulty understanding how people make it into their 70s with no retirement, no savings, no investments, no assets. Ok, intellectually when you tell me why in any individual case I can understand, but on an emotional level I don't understand. My daughter has never held any one job more than 3 years, cycles through minimum wage and runs close to poverty level because she can't seem to settle on a career, keeps starting over, refuses to "sell herself to corporate America", and won't accept help from me, and yet when she hooked up with Hercules in her late 20s she already had a brokerage account with a respectable balance.

I guess it's in the blood. Being thrifty, I mean. (Ok, cheap.) I'm driving a used 2003 Aerio when I really want a Porsche Boxster convertable (and I can afford it - but when I think about the insurance, and the expense of repairs, and other ongoing costs, I cringe). I don't have cable and won't pay for texting on my cell phone, won't pay retail for clothing or anything else if I can help it. Daughter's car is ten years old, I think. I don't completely deprive myself - I buy me toys and anything else I want, but there's a bit of cringing in the buying, and again I cringe at the thought of ongoing costs. I like buying gifts for others because then I have the joy of the buying and the giving, but it's a one-time expenditure, and I like that a lot.

Daughter gripes about people she knows who eat steak on a hamburger budget. I eat hamburger on a steak budget. Which is better? To live for now, or for later? Or when the later becomes the now, you can't enjoy it because you've trained yourself for so long not to?

[Why am I reminded of the t-shirt I saw in the 70s? "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself."]

And before anyone starts muttering about the difference between giving and getting, I have always given away at least 30% of the annual income from investments, to charities, friends, and family, which would not be available at all had it not been invested first.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

1750 Smooth Trip

Wednesday, March 2, 2008

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?


I had a 200 mile round trip today, to a place I'd never been before, and I used the new GPS, which by the way is not called a GPS anywhere in its material - it's a "personal travel assistant".

I had enough confidence to leave the house without a Mapquest or Google printout, and got only .1 mile when I questioned the wisdom of that.

There are two routes I usually take to the bridge over the Hudson. I turn left out of my street onto the highway, and then turn right a few hundred feet down the road, or if I have to go into the village first (like for gas or money) I go about 2 miles down the road and then turn right. When I got to the end of my road today, the nice lady told me to turn left, and go 5.5 miles on that road.

OMG, where's she taking me?

We did get to the bridge, but she took me about 2 miles past the bridge, then the right turn, then backtracked to the bridge. So her route was about 4 miles longer than it should have been.

Right before that first right turn there's the remnant of an old road, from back before they cleaned up the intersection, that makes a diagonal over to the other road. It's about 200 feet long, and avoids the traffic light. She told me to turn right on that little road, but I happen to know it's full of potholes, so I didn't turn and continued on to the light.

Now, the voice is very dry and unemotional --- until you don't obey! She said "Recalculating route", and honest to God you could HEAR the disgust, the undercurrent of "You are too stupidly stubborn to follow simple directions, and now *I* have to work to save your tail!"

It's not just me. I stopped in to see Piper on my way home, and told him about it, and I got as far as "... unemotional, until you don't do what she says..." and he laughed and said "And then you can hear the disgust! The way she says 'RE!calculating!'"

The device provides an ETA, which, when I left the house, and until I got on the Thruway, was 11:23 am. On the Thruway I was traveling at 5 mph over the speed limit (not my choice, just staying "with traffic"), and the further I got, the more the ETA moved out. By the time I got to NJ, the ETA was 11:35 am. Odd. Did it expect me to be going faster?

The only complaint I have is that she will tell you when a turn is coming up way ahead of time, but she just says like "Turn in 2.0 miles. ... Turn in 1.1 miles .... Turn in .7 miles" and so on, but she doesn't say which way to turn until the last minute (or it seems that way), which is awkward when you find yourself in heavy fast traffic on a multilane highway, and discover that you have like four seconds to get over to the ramp off the far left lane, from the far right.

My man says that's because I have the female one. If I had the male one, it would be more informative. (Send the angry email to him.)

So, anyway, the trip felt short. Not worrying about missing a turn or getting lost seemed to make a big difference.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

1749 Another Toy

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

HL Mencken: "Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence."

Anon: “Immature love is wanting the other person to be happy with you. Mature love is wanting the other person to be happy. Period.”


Today it got into the high 60s, and then this evening we had thunder, lightning, wind, heavy rain, and something that was hitting the windows hard enough to worry me. Sleet? Hail? Frozen robins?


My replacement GSP device arrived today. I've fiddled with it a little, but won't actually try it out in the car until tomorrow.

There's a suction mount for the windshield, a USB cord for connecting to the laptop, and a cigarette lighter cord for charging in the car.

It came preloaded with maps for the entire US. You can ask for the location of restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions, gas stations, ATMs. It will warn you if you're in a school zone, or in sight of a safety camera. You can load it with MP3 files or audible books to play while you're driving. It will display JPEGs. It has a currency converter. There's other stuff you can pay for subscriptions to use - none of which I see any need for. Actually, I don't need half the free functions it's got.

I went to the Garmin website to see what accessories there are, and discovered that if I had bought it at the local Staples, it would have cost $599. I paid $299. Not bad.

I did test it. I asked for the location of the new Marriott in Kingston. That hotel has been open just short of a year. It wasn't in the list, so I guess I have to find out how up-to-date, or how complete, the lists are, whether the lists are loaded and have to be updated, or pulled from the satellite, and businesses have to subscribe.

The only documention is a "quick guide". You have to download the full manual from the website if you want it. All I can tell right now is that it wants street addresses or intersections. It says it can be used walking, but I don't know if it can understand latitude/longitude, so I don't know if it can be used hiking. Probably not. That's a separate type of map.

Well, another new toy.

Monday, March 31, 2008

1748 More on risk.

Monday, March 31, 2008

If you can’t learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.


I met my man at the halfway point this evening for dinner and conversation. One of the many topics was the CERN risk thing from the previous post.

I have a method for deciding on a course of action. I formulate a plan of action that seems reasonable, then I try to look at all the possible things that could go wrong. I don't consider the probability. For planning purposes I figure that each of the bad things could happen, in fact, that they WILL happen.

(I was pleased to discover that he thinks in much the same way. You can say that there's a .01% chance of something happening if you do A, but that doesn't make A safe. In reality, either the bad outcome will happen, or it won't, so it's actually 50-50, and you have to think of it that way.)

Then I figure out what I will do if that bad thing does happen, make a recovery plan or figure out a way to ensure that it won't happen. If there is no recovery or avoidance plan, then I decide whether or not I can accept the bad thing, balanced against the possible benefit. If I can't accept the bad thing, then I have to reject that course of action, and look for another.

Repeat - the probability of the bad outcome is not a consideration, only whether it is recoverable, avoidable, or acceptable.

There have been times when my death was a possible outcome, and since there's no recovery plan for that, if I couldn't find a way to entirely eliminate that possibility, I had to decide whether it was acceptable. There have been occasions when I have accepted that risk. (I can't think of a single thing where the death of my daughter would be acceptable.)

When I was working, I always had backup plans for every project and schedule. There was never an unacceptable outcome, no matter what happened. In my investing now there is no stock, bond, mutual fund, account, no single area that has more than I can afford to lose. It's possible to lose everything in some area overnight, so by spreading things out, I've ensured that a loss is acceptable.

So, back to the CERN thing of the previous post, there's a one in a bazillion chance that they will create a self-sustaining black hole that will instantaneously feed upon and destroy Earth. The scientists consider those odds acceptable. They think "Big number. Ain't gonna happen".

They've forgotten something. When you count from 1 to a bazillion, the bad thing could happen at 1 as easily as at a bazillion. Kind of like when they say that on average, 1 in 400 people die in a certain surgery. Well, when you go into that operating room, you have a 50-50 chance of being that 1 in 400. Therefore, there's a 50-50 chance a bad black hole could happen, or not happen, any point.


1747 How much risk is too much risk?

Monday, March 31, 2008

“Unquestioned answers are more dangerous than unanswered questions.” Put another way, “Unanswered questions may be frustrating, but unquestioned answers are dangerous.”


There is some concern that experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN have the possibility of destroying Earth. Some people have filed a federal suit in Hawaii to stop the experiments, as reported at (the scarier stuff is on page 2 - do read it all).

Scott Adams, at, has an amusing but inadvertently illuminating take on it. I know a few people who work or have worked at CERN, and from what I know of them, Scott's analysis of their thinking is disturbingly right on.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

1746 Sibling Rivalry, Stage 2

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Interviewee I-missed-the-name, in the Kingston Freeman a few years ago: "If prayer is out of the public schools, it is simply because those in attendance have chosen not to pray. Individual freedom to pray is still intact. What is rightfully missing is the authority to force prayer on those who do not wish to participate."

Whenever I follow a car at 40 mph all the way down a 55 mph zone, I can't help but wonder what he's hiding in his trunk.
There's something I've seen over and over in real life, and read here and there in the blogosphere, that seems so unfair.

Many of my peers are dealing with failing elderly parents, or have done so in the recent past. Usually one of the siblings takes on the major burden of caring for them, supporting them financially, arranging for their care, whatever is needed, and usually it's the most successful of the siblings, usually the elder. Or the one who is single, or whose children are grown. The other siblings beg off because they don't have as much time or freedom or money. The one with the time, freedom, and money, takes on the major burden, and they do it without complaint, because they recognize their ability to do so, compared to the siblings.

Then comes the settling of the estate, and the part that really bugs me. You can probably see it coming.

Even if the estate, however large or small, is divided equally among the siblings, the ones who begged off on caring for the parents strongly begrudge the caregiving sibling his or her share, since obviously he or she "doesn't need it as much as we do".

It's as if the other siblings spent so much time and energy over the final years convincing themselves and others that they were too poor and too overburdened to contribute to the care of their parents, that they have to continue that line. Otherwise they might have to feel guilt, so they turn on the contributing sibling.

I've seen brothers and sisters stop speaking over it. I have a friend who has gone into major debt to care for his parents. His widowed mother has now said she plans to leave him the house to cover the debt, and the other siblings are already having fits.

I don't understand people. Not at all.