Wednesday, November 30, 2005

First San Diego shot

We got home last night, and I was exhausted. Today, I worked all day. Yet again... exhausted.

So I'll post one photo, just to share something for now. I didn't take the SLR. Instead, I took the new ELPH point-and-shoot camera. It has its limitations and certainly can't do what the SLR can, but it's very convenient.

Anyhow, I love night photos, but the ELPH can't do those terribly well. By bracing it on the railing of our hotel balcony, I was able to at least keep it steady (since I didn't have a tripod), and it gave me this shot (not too bad--just some digital "noise")...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The fun continues

The bar mitzvah was great. More on that when I'm back at my computer (hard to do proper posts from the Palm).

Today, my cousin had a brunch at his house. It was great, and his sons (also my cousins, of course) are amazing kids.

For a short trip (we fly home Tuesday), this has been great.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

San Diego arrival

Well, we're here. We flew to San Diego tonight for a bar mitzvah tomorrow morning (actually, "this" morning, by now). Then we'll have a couple of days of sightseeing before heading home.

Now it's time for some sleep. When we get home, I'll post some photos.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Serious virus/worm threat

There are new computer viruses all the time, but this one sounds serious: Computer Worm Poses as E-Mail From FBI, CIA

From the article: An "e-mail claims the government has discovered you visiting 'illegal' Web sites and asks you to open an attachment to answer some official questions. If you do, your computer gets infected with malware that can disable security and firewall programs and blast out similar e-mails to contacts in your address book. It can also keep you from getting to computer security Web sites that might help fix the problem, and it may open your Windows computer to intruders who can steal your personal data."

So be very careful, everyone! Trust me, if the government wants information from you, they don't need to send an e-mailed form.

Speaking of the government... the criminal penalties for this type of activity aren't sufficient. I really don't care if it's some 18 year-old kid who thinks it's a cool way to get credit card info and buy free stuff. Lives are ruined by this. I feel the same way about scam artists who rip off retirement savings (or CEOs who bankrupt their companies in the name of greed and have the same effect). They all deserve major prison time.

Want to distinguish them from people who use violence? Okay, violence is worse, but they may both be beyond the point at which we should say, "you don't deserve your freedom anymore." These crimes aren't the same as shooting someone, but I'm not in favor of giving discounts because the criminal didn't happen to use violence. If you think 6 months in jail and community service should be sufficient for the 18 year-old, ask the people whose financial lives are ruined, who can't retire for another 10 years (if ever) or whose families are in havoc because their finances have been ruined. Then get back to me on what's a fair punishment.

[End of rant]

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Marc and I had Thanksgiving dinner by ourselves this year. It's a long story why, but I really didn't mind. He's my best friend, and we had a lovely dinner together. Also, we could be casual, since no one else was here. No need to eat at the dining room table. Instead, we ate at the table in the sunroom.

Whether it's just the two of us celebrating the holiday or a whole crowd, Marc wasn't going to skimp. He got a fresh turkey and went to work. After being prepped, brined, stuffed and cooked, it looked like this...

Marc carved the turkey, and we each prepared a plate. With the turkey, Marc made gravy, stuffing (both in the turkey and extra in a side dish), green beans, sweet potatoes, baby potatoes and hot rolls (he also has hot buns, but that's something for another kind of post). I took this shot shortly after setting my plate down...

Yeah, it was pretty good. Our furry family members came to help us...

The girls offering Marc some help

Dodger waits under the table for something to come his way

The only problem with just two of us having this dinner is that we have TONS of food left over. For all we ate, this is all that Marc carved from the turkey...

Even with it limited to that, and with what we ate, there's still this much left before he carves up the rest of the bird...

So we have work to do tonight. A lot of food is getting vacuum sealed and put into the freezer downstairs!

Once that's done, I'm hoping for some dessert. (Well, actually, he made a pumpkin torte, but that's not the kind of dessert I meant, and you know it!) ;)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

New toy

If you've read my blog for a while, you've seen photos taken with my digital SLR (or DSLR), a Nikon D100. A little birdy tells me I may be getting a brand-new state of the art Nikon DLSR for Chanukah, but that's not what this post is about.

In addition to the DSLR, we have a digital point-and-shoot camera. It's a number of years old and belonged to my Mom. It was an excellent, cutting edge camera when she got it. We've used it many times, but it seemed to me that the time had come to get something new.

The real motivator was seeing the wonderful results a certain Knotty Boy got from his camera. So I asked him what kind he had, and that started me on my way. I researched the newer versions of his camera, as well as some other choices, including Nikon's offerings.

After I'd finished my research, and also handled some of the cameras at B&H Photo, I settled on a Canon (like Knotty's!). I got this...

It's a Canon PowerShot SD550, part of their "Digital ELPH" line, and is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. Also, it's 7 megapixel. But megapixels alone aren't the main thing. I looked at a bunch of detailed reviews today (yes, I did all of my research and shopping in one day) and liked what I saw, including sharpness, color rendition and various features. Plus, it can shoot videos, but I have no idea how to get them online, unlike another blogger I mentioned earlier.

I stopped to buy the camera on my way to a meeting at our corporate offices. After our meeting was over, it was all I could do to keep from ripping the box apart to get at my new toy.

I loaded in the battery (fortunately, it had some charge on it right out of the box), the small flash card that came with it (although I bought a big one, too) and started playing.

One nice (and necessary, for the purpose of this camera) thing about the camera is that its shots don't need much, or any, retouching. The shots below might do well to have some minor tweaking in Photoshop, but they came out pretty good without even bothering.

This is a shot of our conference room...

After the meeting, I walked back to Penn Station. A sight on the way...

Oh, by the way, these weren't shot on the camera's highest resolution setting, but they still seem to have very nice detail. Set on this regular quality setting, I can get over a thousand shots on the large (1GB) card I bought. On highest resolution, it only (only? I remember when 36-shot rolls of film were big) holds 322 shots.

Continuing with our tour, here's a wider shot. On the right, you can see the side of the Post Office. Yes, for any out-of-towners not familiar with the structure, that building on the right is the main post office for Manhattan...

The front of the post office building apparently is getting some work done...

I'm wondering if this is part of the big Penn Station project. Part of the post office will be used as part of the new Penn Station (which is now across the street). This work may be part of that project.

So I hopped on a train to head home. It was literally "standing room only" when I got there...

After what felt like a particularly long trip, I arrived at my station...

After I was done with my commute, I played with the camera a bit more. Did I mention that one of its built-in features is a macro setting? To try it out, I pushed back the cuff of my shirt and took this picture of my watch...

Evidence that I got to leave early today

Some other shots...

Dodger & Bernice before getting out of the pen

Bernice in her cone (so she won't chew a boo-boo on her paw)


Marc tried it out, too. Among his shots were these...

My favorite shot (Dodger doesn't care much for having his picture taken)

Another shot of Bernice in her cone

I hope you liked some of those photos. I think this little camera's going to be a lot of fun.

More thoughts on the death penalty

The comments on my last post have been pretty solidly "it's wrong to kill." That's certainly a view I respect. It's as far as a discussion with my grandmother once got on this subject. She was as tough as nails (more on her some other time), but she said it was wrong to kill. There was nothing more to discuss.

I'm just wondering who feels that it's wrong to kill, as opposed to being opposed to a review of testimony and evidence leading to a conscious decision to kill. My problem with the death penalty is that we're mulling over evidence and then making a decision to kill.

On the other hand, there are cases which, if the reports about them are true, cry out for the death of the criminal. For example, some guy who decides to rob a house and kill the parents and children so no one can turn him in. Or how about those guys who ordered a pizza and killed the deliveryman because they wanted to see what it was like to kill someone?

I'd still oppose the death penalty as part of a legal process, for a variety of reasons, but that's different from what would really be just. If I were present, witnessing these horrific acts in person, I don't think I'd have any qualms about such vicious criminals being killed. In fact, if I could stop them, I'd shoot them on the spot. I'm not talking about self-defense, although that would be what allowed me the legal right to intervene--the protection of myself and the others involved. I'm also not talking about or condoning vigilantes. That's no answer!

What I mean is that, in a world where we could know guilt to an absolute, moral certainty--in general, that's not the world we live in--some people really deserve to die. In that respect, maybe I'm in touch with my Jewish roots. In the Old Testament, we didn't turn the other cheek . . . but that's not the point, either. I'm not religious enough (or enough of a hypocrite!) to rest my beliefs on the bible when it suits me. It's just that some people's acts are so purely evil that it seems they've lost their right to draw breath on this earth.

Anyhow, I still oppose the death penalty, because one innocent person being put to death is too many. But I also hope many of the vicious criminals who truly deserve it find life in prison to be hell on earth (essentially, what Andy says in the prior comments is his view). I also hope it's truly life in prison, so they can't get another chance to kill.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The problem with the death penalty

I used to be pro-death penalty. There are certainly some people who richly deserve it. The problem is that humans, even well-meaning ones, make mistakes.

Cops trying to solve a heinous crime will bend rules and stretch truths to nail a person they "know" committed the crime. The problem is that sometimes they're wrong. At least if someone is locked up for life without parole, errors can be reversed. Yes, the person has lost years, probably was quite traumatized, but he/she can recapture some of that lost life.

On the other hand, the death penalty brings us situations like this*: Executed man may have been innocent

*Brought to you by the State that loves executing people, Texas. Such a surprise!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A high-ranking Catholic official and I agree on something?

According to this article, Reverend George Coyne, the Vatican's Chief Astronomer (I didn't even know they had one!) said that "Intelligent Design" isn't science and has no place in a science classroom. This may not be the Catholic Church's official position--in fact, I don't think the Pope has been much help on this issue. Still, it's nice to hear something sensible coming from someone in a position of power in the church.

Actually, I was wondering if my eyes were playing tricks on me when I first saw the article. I had to read it twice to make sure I got it right, but, sure enough, the man said it and makes perfect sense. Obviously, he respects God's place in the universe, but he said, "Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be . . . If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

Well put, Reverend. He added, "If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

The article shares Reverend Coynes view of God as an "encouraging parent." "God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity. He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."

I know other religious men who are smart and make sense, but it seems like there are so few these days. It's nice to hear from one more sane voice in this crazy world.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Just off the boat?

I'm in a taxi as I type this. My driver (Abdul Hameed, according to his hack license) responded to my asking to go to one of Manhattan's top hospitals with "What? Where's that?" Thinking it would help, I repeated the name. No luck.

So I told him the address, but how do they let this guy on the road without the basics? What if I didn't know the address and I were going there to meet my doctor for medical reasons?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Otters 1, People 0

I love when animals outsmart people. This story is a wonderful example.

Apparently, the federal government decided that otters needed to be banned from a part of the California coast. So they were doing things like catching the otters and flying them far away. They picked a place with all of the qualities an otter would want. They even put them in a place where they'd have to cross deep water that would be a tough swim for them to get home, but the otters hadn't signed off on this deal.

So the otters just swam back to their original home. Some swam 200 miles to get there.

Sadly, some otters couldn't take the stress of the relocations, but I guess that's not surprising. The poor things were kidnapped!

Anyhow, this effort to take the natural inhabitants of an area away for the benefit of business didn't work. That makes me smile.

Leave nature alone. I especially love the statement in the article about the ability of the otters to get back home--"it seemed improbable that they had the navigation skills to do it." Why do we think we know so much? How can we tell what an otter can do? Such arrogance.

So, my final statement on this is: you go, otters!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Stress just isn't good. My job is a good one, but the stress level can be a bit much. The place is going through a time of high pressure, and that ratchets up the pressure on me and my department. Oh well, it's still a good job, and I'm still glad I have it.

Some days, though, I think how nice it would be to spend my days making art out in a lovely corner of Wyoming. Ah, now there's a life!

(Think these thoughts came from a day in which I had a number of crises come up, to fill the time between meetings at 9am, 10am, 11am, 12 noon, 2pm, 3pm and 3:30pm and then a call at 5:30pm? How I got away with no meeting at 1pm is a mystery. *sigh*)

Monday, November 14, 2005


I saw a few interesting articles this evening and thought about sharing them here. There was the one about the former 9/11 Commission head saying the terrorists were doing a lot more to get nuclear weapons than the government's doing to stop them.

Well, that's depressing. So how about the one where National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley backpedaled from W's "We Do Not Torture" statement, saying that the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" may be necessary? Typical. Call it enhanced interrogation techniques, and it's not torture.

Again, too damn depressing. So how about this? A study has been done, and we now know that squirrels have a complex language. Yeah, that works. Cute little squirrels.

I hope I don't have to learn it. I still haven't mastered French (or English, for that matter!). So I sure hope I won't be expected to learn Squirrelese. Even if I do, at least I know the squirrels won't try to nuke or torture us. So I can deal with this! :)

If you want to read more and prepare for your language studies, the article is here.

This is ridiculous

Hospitals don't waste prime space on HR. Instead, we usually go wherever there's space.

That usually means an older part of the facility. That's the case here. I can deal with the older digs, but the HVAC issues are horrible.

In the summer, it's sweltering, although I have a window air conditioner that valiantly tries to keep up. At this time of year, we have to deal with heat that's either completely on or off.

Today, it's on. When I walked in this morning, the temperature on my digital thermometer was 94.5 degrees!! Again, the a/c is helping as it and the radiator fight it out. I also have the window wide open. I just hope a pigeon doesn't fly in!

BTW, I'm trying to post this from my new phone. Hope it works!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A wonderful guest

For those of you who already follow Knottyboy's blog, it will come as no surprise for me to say he's wonderful. Smart, funny, handsome and sweet, he's really terrific.

For the past day, he's been here, and we've been loving our time with him. He came out here to our little island yesterday morning and put up with us for a full day. We just dropped him at the train station, and we were very sorry to see him go. He's as wonderful as we thought he'd be, based on his blog and our many e-mails and telephone conversations.

We took him out to the east end of the Island. We didn't give him the grand tour that we do for many first-time visitors, but we hit some of the high points. We had lunch at a kitschy little diner we like in Aquebogue called the Modern Snack Bar. Here we see Marc and Wayne barely tolerating my wanting a photo of them in front of the place...

The food there is classic comfort food. After this, with our bellies suitably prepared, we stopped at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic and indulged in a nice round of wine tasting.

Then we went to Greenport and caught the ferry to Shelter Island. We saw some dead people (or at least their graves) and then headed through the rest of the island and caught the ferry over to the south fork and started heading back.

Eventually, we made our way back to Merrick, where we picked up Byrne (another wonderful houseguest, although he didn't stay over this time), and then we headed home.

Marc made panini sandwiches for dinner. We have a new panini maker, and he was dying to use it. We also had more to drink (we're such lushes!) and spent some of our time in front of a lovely fire I built in our fireplace.

At the end of the night, I drove Byrne back to the train (not to worry, I was sober) and then we called it a night.

This morning, Marc made us pumpkin pancakes, we sat around in the sunroom for a bit, and then we had to take Knotty back to the train. It was sad to see him go, knowing it's likely to be a while before we see him again.

Now it's time to go do some other things. So we're off to the framing shop with some photos. I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

That should be a sold out show!

Working in a hospital, I see all kinds of interesting things. Among the more innocuous, but amusing, things are the names of some of the seminars they give for the medical staff. I just saw one announced in our lobby:


It's a good thing the case it's in is locked, or I'd be very tempted to mess with it. It cries out for a sub-heading like "WORLD TOUR". :)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Rowdy children in restaurants

Today's Times had this article in the "National Report" section: At Center of a Clash, Rowdy Children in Coffee Shops. It's about restaurants where they've started to tell parents that children need to behave. The first one mentioned has a sign that says, "children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven." The owner, Dan McCauley, has been getting grief from some parents.

I think children can be adorable. I also think parents need to take some responsibility for the behavior of their kids. Many simply don't, and then they have the nerve to be upset if other people call them on it.

In response to the article, I just sent the following letter to the Times. I don't know if they'll print it, but I at least want to share it here...

Bravo to Dan McCauley for taking a stand, not against children but against parents who abdicate their responsibility to control the behavior of their children. Might a child sometimes cry out or protest loudly, often without warning? Of course, but that’s not the real issue. Many parents think nothing of letting their children affect the peace and comfort of other diners.

The blame for a child showing up at my table or staring over my shoulder from the next booth rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents. To those groups of parents who bring larger groups of children with them, placing themselves at one end of a table, or even at an adjacent table, while they gather the children together so that they can have fun and grow unceasingly in volume, I must ask why their “right” to bring their children to a public establishment should trump my right to quiet enjoyment of a meal.

Of the establishments mentioned in the article, none is saying they don’t want children around. They’re saying they don’t want disruptive children around. There’s a big difference. The well-mannered children of parents who are present and attentive to their responsibilities aren’t the issue.

As children, decades ago, my brothers and I would be taken to Sunday dinner at a local restaurant by our parents. We never got to roam freely and bother other diners, and, if we began to misbehave, our parents would tell us that we’d be left with a babysitter next time unless we acted appropriately. No one ever needed to raise a hand to us. Instead, we were told the standards of conduct when one was dining out, and we were expected to adhere to those standards. We were treated like adults, and, with some exceptions, each of which was quickly addressed, we acted like adults. Today’s parents should worry more about the behavior they condone in their children than they do about restaurants and diners who have the backbone to speak their minds about the rambunctious children in their midst.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

An electoral confession

Sometimes... oh, how do I say this? I guess I should just say it...

Sometimes I vote for Republicans. Don't hate me! I'd never vote for one of those hate-mongering, right-wing Republicans. For that matter, I'd never vote for candidates because they're Republicans. In fact, a candidate being a Republican makes me hesitate.

Nevertheless, there are times when Candidate Number One is a decent guy (or gal) and Candidate Number Two is a USDA-certified Grade A asshole, despite the fact that Number One is a Republican and Number Two is a Democrat. When push comes to shove (or to "pull", as in the voting machine lever), I vote for the better candidate. Yes, a candidate being in the GOP does give me some concern, but it's not the only measure of a person.

I wish the GOP would go back to being somewhat libertarian and in support of fiscal conservatism, as I seem to recall they once were. I also wish the Democrats had the balls to stand up and say, "'liberal' isn't a bad word!" These two parties, as they now stand, just aggravate me. *sigh*

Anyhow, today I voted for a few Republicans. These are people whose records I know, people who've done good things for the community. Their opponents are worthless. So I think I did the right thing. I just wish they weren't in W's party.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I'm so proud!

In looking over my "keyword activity" stats, I found that entering "tom delay is an asshole" into Google takes you right to my blog! Even if you just enter "delay asshole", my blog is the second choice. I'm kvelling!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I should have tried this sooner

I'm watching Starship Troopers on one of the Spanish language stations. I don't speak a word of Spanish, so I have no idea what anyone's saying. The interesting thing is that I'm enjoying this movie a lot more than I did when I originally saw it.

I guess the stupid dialogue and bad acting must have taken away from my enjoyment of it originally. Now, all I can do is look at pretty boys and watch video game-like shooting of giant bugs. I may have to try this with some other mediocre films. :)

In other news, our Internet access is back (again). After our last outage, I had hoped we were done with this nonsense. No such luck.

Today, as Marc is at work (he occasionally has these weekend work days), I sat home and waited for Cablevision to make an appearance. Two trucks arrived late this afternoon, and two not-much-to-look-at men appeared. They came in, and I let the dogs follow them around. Marc usually locks up the dogs when any people are coming in to do work, but I prefer to let the dogs greet them at the door (so the dogs won't do anything rash) and then let the dogs follow them around. I like for strangers to know that the dogs are here. Just in case they have any bad ideas--for now or later--the presence of the dogs should banish those thoughts. (Yes, I have trust issues. What can I say? You should see our fancy schmancy alarm system, too.)

Oh, about the Internet access--this time, they decided to replace the cable modem (last time, they replaced a splitter or two). I hope that does the trick. Well, time to go back to watching this fine film. :)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

He's still too conservative, but...

I have to take what says with a grain of salt (as a certain famous author would want me to), but there's an interesting article there about a piece of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's history.

From the article: . . . a report prepared by a Princeton University undergraduate task force, chaired by Alito while he was a student, recommended the decriminalization of sodomy, said that discrimination against gays in hiring "should be forbidden," and accused the CIA and the FBI of invading the privacy of citizens.

"We sense a great threat to privacy in modern America," Alito wrote in a foreword to the report, in 1971. "We all believe that privacy is too often sacrificed to other values; we all believe that the threat to privacy is steadily and rapidly mounting; we all believe that action must be taken on many fronts now to preserve privacy."

In 1971? Well, he may have grown more conservative over the years. Besides, there are other vital issues, other than gay rights, so I'm not going to be a supporter just yet. Still, this is a hopeful sign.

Could he be a traditional conservative? The kind who isn't the repulsive bigot who comes to mind when one says "conservative" these days, really meaning one of those hideous "neo-conservatives"? I'm not convinced, but I can hope!

Smoke gets in my eyes

I don't know what's burning, but it's something big.

As I exited the subway car at the 14th Street station, I smelled something burning. My first thought was that one of the streetcorner carts that serves hot food must have been somewhat smoky this morning (these things happen) and that the smell had wafted down into the station. It was pretty stinky for one of these carts, but it could be.

Then I came up from underground. As I left the station, I could see that Seventh Avenue was filled with a haze of smoke, as were the cross-streets. So much for the food cart idea. Something large is on fire.

Sitting here typing this, I just heard that it's some cars on top of a parking garage a few blocks away. Just a few cars, they say, but they also said it's a three-alarm fire. Seems like too much smoke for just a few cars.

Anyhow, that's my excitement for the morning!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Back Dorm Boys

You MUST go here. Thanks to Matt for pointing these boys out. They're a pair of students at the Guangdong Arts Institute in China. They've done lip-sync parodies of some Backstreet Boys songs, and they're adorable and funny. The link I listed is for the song "As Long as You Love Me", but there are others you can watch and enjoy.