Friday, July 30, 2004

Life Update

It took a while -- almost eleven months to the day -- but I will once again be gainfully employed as of Monday. Woohooo!, as my children are wont to say. I got the job offer last Monday, and after accepting it immediately found that my to-do list of little jobs around the house had become extremely long. Replacing taps (and, it turned out, drainpipes), hanging towel rails, putting up closet doors, mowing the lawn, all sorts of things. OK, I haven't mowed the lawn yet...

I think the hardest hit family members will be the dogs. I've been staying home all day since October 2002, and they are kind of used to it. They'll work it out somehow, though. Anyway, my extremely intermittent blogging will probably become even more so over the next few weeks as I adjust to spending most of my waking hours outside the house.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

All-Star Dreaming

According to the Post-Gazette, major league baseball will be announcing today that the 2006 All-Star game will be held here in the 'Burgh. Pittsblog points out some of the oddities in the announcement. I was more interested in seeing, however, that Houston is thought to have made some $85.6 million from it's game. I know that Chuck will be glad for the update on the last estimate, since he dcubted he'd ever see one.

On a personal note, we will probably be on vacation July 11, 2006 since Valerie works across the street from the ball park and doesn't want to deal with the hassle.

Monday, July 19, 2004


One of the curious pleasures of parenting is the opportunity to revisit childhood classics and discover that they bear almost no resemblance to one's memory of them. Last week we rented Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the boys, and watched it over the course of four nights.

Now I may be wrong about this, but I suspect that the Neocon boys over at the Pentagon may have been watching it as well. Towards the end small force (Caractacus Potts, Truly Scrumptious[1], two generic children) with superior technology (CCBB) invade a country ruled by a despotic leader who has enslaved or driven underground a significant portion of the population (the children). With the help of a knowledgable insider (the toymaker) they succeed in overthrowing the baron and releasing the prisoners. Despite the ensuing chaos, they are able to immediately leave, while an announcer calmly reveals that with the overthrow of the ruler democracy is able to take root and flourish.

Eery, isn't it? Unfortunately, it turns out (and this is one of the things I had forgotten) that all of the bits involving cars that float and fly are merely a story told to the children and have no basis in reality even in the world of the film. This is a key detail that I suspsect the Perle-ites missed.

[1] Apparently Ian Flemings ridiculous female character names weren't limited to Bond movies!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Purple People

Slate's Red/Blue quiz is working today. After my initial try on it, I ended up well into the pinks, which I like to think is just an indication that trivia is a questionable way of determining political associations. Kevin Drum seems to think the same.

It seems that a great deal of my redness came from living in Chicago for 5 years (Door County, WS; Quad-cities; etc.) and a bit more from living in Texas for 7 years (or 11 depending how you count). It's probably a reflection of Slate's audience, but the choice of questions seems to me to be more aimed at convincing blue people of their redness than vice-versa.

On a purely technical note, however, the format of the quiz is one of the better ones I've seen online. I give them kudoes for that, and hope that the format is sufficiently public that the continuous stream of "personality" quizzes (which Asimovian Robot Are you? -- Tyrone Power[1]) will be able to adopt it.

[1] If you have to ask, don't bother.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Layers Upon Layers

The fiscal excitement here in Pittsburgh just continues to grow. As I noted a few days ago, the Mayor and the Act 47 board managed to come to an agreement on a five-year plan (how soviet!) to balance the city budget. In the process they proposed some $33E6 next year in spending reductions. Unfortunately, for reasons I still don't understand, they are apparently not the final word on the matter. Instead, the Fiscal Oversight Board has said that they won't forward the proposed changes in tax structure to the legislature for approval unless a way is found to save $50E6 next year.

This is getting truly silly. It seems that, thanks to the distressed city status, there are at least five layers of approval needed to get a budget passed (Mayor, Council, Act 47, FOB, Legislature), and at least two of them aren't accountable to anyone in particular. I am starting to eagerly await the next roadblock once this obstacle has been negotiated.

On a related note, I heartily second Michael Madison comments on Pittsburgh and its self-image issues. The city's history as an industrial center is a very good thing. It has left the city well-endowed with charitable trusts and the associated cultural opportunities. It really is time, however, to accept that Big Iron has gone away and isn't likely to return. The regional economy has changed, and the political structure of the region (that is suburbs as well as the city) needs to change to reflect that. Until it does so, any fixes that are made are likely to be nothing more than bandaids.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Way We Were

I've got a technical phone screening this afternoon for a job here in town. I've gone through a few of these before, and I'm starting to realize that I really don't like them. In this case, the only information I have about the job is what the company does, and a four line job description on their website. Given that, the interviewer could pretty much ask me anything from Computational Fluid Dynamics to Fortran programming practices.

Now my Fortran is a little rusty, but it is my computational mother tongue, so to speak. My CFD experience goes back to graduate school and is more limited, so I've been reviewing (among other things) my dissertation.

I've come to the conclusion that I was pretty damn clever ten years ago and, by extension, I am now apparently a blithering idiot.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Civic Management

Pittsburgh could probably take some lessons from other cities (most notably New York) on improving its image among its residents. Certainly one gets the impression that Giuliani's efforts in New York to make the place seem friendlier and safer worked amaingly well, although that may have just been PR.

I was thinking about this after the downtown fireworks display on Sunday night. Pittsburgh fires off the display from the Confluence, so there are basically three main areas to watch the show -- north of, south of, and between the rivers. Since there is abundant parking and large grassy spaces on the north side (not to mention it being closest to our house) we were settled there with our picnic. After the show we made our way back to the car, strapped the boys in, and prepared to leave the parking lot. Forty-five minutes later we had moved about 4 feet. After another half hour or so, we managed to get onto roads were traffic was moving, and after that getting home was a doddle.

While I expect a certain amount of congestion leaving a major civic event, what really amazed me was the complete lack of police officers in all this. The congestionw was being strongly driven by complete gridlock in a few key intersections, and it seemed that the correct placement of even a dozen uniforms directing traffic would have done wonders for keeping things moving.

For all that, at least the boys were asleep in their car seats. Two years ago we went to Austin's fireworks with our then-two year old, and Karin's post on this year's event sounds all too similar.