What’s The Over/Under On The Overlap?

So, how many people like this who’ve got their knickers in a twist about a proposed bicycle ban on public roads:

Today the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the ongoing efforts of St. Charles County Councilman Joe Brazil (R-Defiance) to get bikes banned from rural Southwestern St. Charles country roads – seems he listens closely to those folks who resent having to share the road with bicyclists. As a person who frequently commuted to work by bicycle when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area – where, incidentally, droves of bicycles regularly share narrow, curving mountain roads with cars with few accidents – I could easily visualize the type of folks who might complain.

I have vivid memories of elderly people on deserted streets who, despite having acres of space in which to pass me as I hugged the side of the street, instead reduced their speed to a crawl and made exasperated faces and gestures as they followed me slowly along the street. Or the teen-age girls who yelled obscenities at me as I followed prescribed procedure for making a left-hand turn in traffic. This didn’t happen too often in Palo Alto, and the perpetrators were not people whom one would accord much credibility. In retrospect, however, their rather irrational sense of entitlement suggests that they might have been just the type of folks who would be at home at a Tea Party – which could explain our Republican pol’s concern for their druthers rather than those of bike riders.

are the same sorts of people who are all a-flutter to tell other people who own businesses that they cannot allow smoking on their private property?

Yeah, I’m going with 89% myself.

You could even make the same sorts of public health trumps private property rights arguments. Bikers hit by cars cost the public money! Emergency services aren’t cheap!

Ah, well, as some might very well misquote, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

Just for the record, I favor the rights of the property holder in both cases. However, the urbane busybodies of the world who want to dictate what you can do with your property want unfettered access to their property to make you do it.

The Money Acted Alone, On Its Own Initiative

Nearly $82 million will help expand high-speed Internet service in rural Missouri.

Well, that’s right neighborly of that money, at loose ends since it left the military, to volunteer for community service like that.

Oh, wait.

The federal government has approved nearly $82 million to expand high-speed Internet access in rural Missouri.

The Missouri money is part of $1.2 billion of Internet grants announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Well, it’s right neighborly of foreign bondholders and domestic institutions that buy t-bills to throw this money away in an endeavor that will not only cost a billion now, but will cost money on upkeep that the ISPs will not be able to cover with subscriber fees.

Book Report: Wicked Prey by John Sandford (2009)

John Sandford is getting there, but unlike Ed McBain, he doesn’t have 50 years of good will built up.

The there is pissing me off with the ragging on Republicans and conservatives. It took him only until page 12 to identify that the hardened criminal in charge of the enterprise was a self-identified conservative; if this book were published in 2010 instead of 2009, he’d probably identify with the Teabaggers. Twelve pages later, George W. Bush is mentioned by name in a less than flattering light. On page 35, someone is told he looks like a Republican as an insult. Seriously, Sandford, knock it off.

The stories in the book (and now that he’s a serious hardback author, they must weigh in at 400 pages. Remember when only Stephen King did that?) revolve around a group of crackerjack criminals in town to rob people and hotels at the Republican National Convention and about a criminal getting out of prison, paraplegic, and blaming Davenport, so of course he’s going to get revenge. The two stores touch at points, made to do so to validate the decision to pad out the book with the second, but really, it’s two shorter novels in one. Cut aways to the other story pass for building suspense, I guess.

Finally, one comes to a head and then Davenport solves the other with a little help from a dream or a hint from the semiconscious mind. Sandford must have realized he’d achieved the proper weight to cost $30 in hardback. Then it ends with some dangling ends that Sandford can bring back another time, a la the hitwoman Rinker.

I’m being a little harsher on the book than it deserves, perhaps, but Sandford did his best to put me in an ill and opposing mood at the beginning of the book. By about page 50, the book drops off with the political “Rightwing nuts!” stuff and gets down to the plot. Which makes me wonder why he bothered to put it in at all and risk alienating 47% or more of the population. To establish his Minnesota Democrat bona fides? Brother, Al Franken is your senator. It’s worse than when my state elected a dead man, for crying out loud.

He’s really down to my last nerve on the political stuff and the gratuitous swearing. All the characters drop f-bombs in random spots and use it as people’s middle name throughout this book and the series. Come on, I gave up the mad swearing when I had kids, and I didn’t do it professionally for any part of my life. Grow up, Sandford. Grow up.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Thank You Note To Losing Candidates

I spent last evening at an election results watching party for a couple of candidates that ended up on the short side of the count in their respective races down here in Greene County. At the end of the evening, when it became apparent that the number of remaining ballots were fewer than the number of votes needed to take the lead, the closer of the candidates dismissed us with what sounded like a concession speech even though the race was close enough to go to a recount.

In the speech, he thanked everyone there for their support in his campaign, whether in financial donations or in knocking on doors when the temperature hovered in the middle 90s. He said he couldn’t do it without us.

Well, be that as it may, we could not have done it without him.

It takes a lot more to be a candidate than to support a candidate. He had to work his day job and then do the full time job of being a candidate at night and on the weekends. He forewent vacations, private time with his family, and frankly relaxation time that I take for granted and get cranky if I don’t get every night.

He didn’t have to travel far as his district was small, but some do. This year’s Senate primary had a baker’s half dozen candidates, some of whom bothered to travel throughout the state at their own expense sometimes to try to gather support and to get their messages out.

So candidates put their lives on hold for six months, or a year, or sometimes more, with the hopes of having to travel somewhere away from their families to serve in government. They’d trade their current full time job for a fuller time job as an elected official, and although I’m often cynical, I don’t really believe that these guys, on our team at least, go into it to make millions or to become famous. State legislative offices or county government only brings a wealth of headaches if you’re doing it right. Instead, they do it because they feel something akin to a calling, a desire to do it the right way, or at least to do better than the current crop running the country.

No, sir and ma’am, thank you. You took all the risk, all the burden, and sometimes awaken on the first Wednesday in office with nothing but some debt and another day at your regular job to show for it. Supporting a candidate is helpful, but running for office is the hard work.

(Cross-posted at 24thState.com.)

Book Report: 100 Crafts Under $10 by Better Homes and Gardens (2003)

This book is a collection of quick, cheap crafts you can make. The end result crafts are better than what you get out of the Trash to Treasure series, but I think the book relies on some creative accounting, namely pro-rating, to bring each craft under ten dollars. Each individual craft comes with an itemized bill and they do all come under $10, but sometimes the bill indicates that $3.98 for two colors of spray paint. I’ve just priced spray paint, so I know that two cans of spray paint cost more than that.

The crafts are simple, and many of them resemble the sort of thing you’d see on the television program Creative Juice. Some of them are very similar indeed. That means that I’ll take some ideas from it, but probably not as many as I would from watching a season of the aforementioned program. Maybe it’s the way I soak up ideas, but things I flip past in a book don’t stick with me quite as well as the things I see on television in 7 minute segments.

Which makes me question the whole enterprise of reading these things.

Books mentioned in this review:

A Fusion Of Photoblogging And Country Music

The Denver Post photoblog has two series of color photographs: America 1939-1945 and Russia Early 1900s.

That reminds me of this song:

Hindrocket (I’m such an old-timer I still call him that) asks at Powerline, Why Does the Past Seem So Far Away? and answers:

In part, because we so often see it in black and white. But the world has, for some thousands of years at least, looked much as it does now.

He’s right, of course. And now that video is so widely distributed and replayed, it’s why 2010 looks a lot like 1985 with less moussed hair and more cell phones.

So Historic, I’m Calling It An Historic Presidency

County property value dip is historic:

The value of property in St. Louis County has dropped for two years in a row for the first time since the Depression years of 1931 and 1932.

St. Louis County reported that the assessed value of residential and commercial real estate and personal property had dropped by 3.6 percent this year.

Taken with the drop in 2009 of 2.9 percent, county property is worth about $1.6 billion less than it was two years ago. The county’s assessed values determine property taxes.

The first time since the Great Depression? You don’t say.

It’s unfair to put it all on President Obama. After all, he has help from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in frightening Americans into thinking that their world and their government is arbitrary and unpredictable and makes us all want to dig our fiscal bunkers just a little deeper.

Good News For Employers

You can tell I don’t work for a newspaper. This story is bad news: Job-seekers swamping employers who are hiring:

Restaurateur Charlie Gitto Jr. thought he knew what lay ahead when the local eatery put out notice for 150 employees to work at its newest location in Chesterfield.

Drawing on 30 years in the business, a tenure that includes the opening of three other restaurants, Gitto figured he would see 200 applications, at most.

“Ten years ago, it was a struggle to find people,” the owner recalled.

Gitto’s lesson in the new era of employment economics began the instant his staff posted “Now Hiring” advertisements online for his Chesterfield restaurant, scheduled to open at the end of this month.

Within the first two weeks, Gitto’s staff was swamped with more than 500 applications. The number soon swelled to 700 and continues to rise.

The good news:

  • Some businesses are hiring.
  • Businesses that are hiring can choose from a large pool, ensuring they have fitting employees.
  • This restaurant, at least, won’t have to hire the dregs of society that don’t care about your service.

Still, to be a real newspaperman, I’d have to highlight how traumatizing this is for businesses and to dampen the morale of job seekers. If I could work Bush into the story, I’d be a superhero of journalism.

I Get It: I Write Like <?php getRandomNumber()>

So I tried out the I Write Like site using the first couple of paragraphs from my last novel:

Robert Davies tried to log onto FuckedCompany.com, and he could not, and he knew he was fucked.

The chair squeaked as he leaned back. He double-checked the URL in the browser’s address bar; it was correct. He pursed his lips and typed the URL again. Again, Microsoft Internet Explorer showed him its regular, unhelpful, the-page-cannot-be-displayed screen. It suggested he might want to check his browser settings.

Robert typed in www.nTropics.com, the address of the Web servers sitting in the large, bomb-shelter safe room in the basement. His company’s site popped up, with its neo-Aztec cursive logo and gold bar icon. He typed Instapundit.com, and the popular blog loaded. His Internet connection was indeed active. But when he tried to get to FuckedCompany.com again, the same.

The first time was an accident, the second time coincidence, and the third time, one of his college professors said, was a pattern. This was the other shoe, and the axe was going to fall. He wanted to be sure, so he went looking for Daryl.

Daryl was the company guru. Whenever a new employee at nTropics.com needed some help with his or her workstation, that person went to the two network administrators in the unlit office that probably was a supply closet before nTropics took over the building. Those who had more than six months’ experience, few as they seemed to be, would go to the same guy the certs-from-a-book weenies did: Daryl Simon. So Robert made his way up a half flight of stairs into the Customer Support Room.

I Write Like said:

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I didn’t like that answer, so I tried with the next block of text:

Daryl studied his computer screen. His visibility, and the high level of background noise imposed by fourteen other technical service reps all in open cubes, didn’t bother him. When Robert got close enough, he saw Daryl was reading some system board review, dazzled and probably slightly intoxicated by the speed of the front side bus and the RAID capabilities.

“Ahem,” Robert mentioned after standing for a moment at the edge of the half wall, just over Daryl’s shoulder and conveniently noticeable for anyone, probably, but Daryl.

“What’s up, Robert?” Daryl said.

Robert dropped his voice. “I can’t get to F Company.”

“What?”

Robert hated to say it, so he hissed, instead. “I can’t get to FuckedCompany.com!”

“You kick your Cat5 out?”

“No, I haven’t lost connectivity, I just can’t get to the site. That means they’re blocking us, and that means we’re going out of business.”

“What’s up, guys?” Kevin Horton appeared and asked.

“Robert can’t get to Fucked Company, so we’re all fired.” Daryl tapped on his keyword.

“What’s Fucked Company?” Kevin said.

“The Dot-Com Deadpool,” Robert said.

“It’s a rumors site,” Daryl said. “When a company’s thinking about layoffs, someone drops Fucked Company an e-mail and the guy puts it up on the Web. A lot of times he’s got actual e-mails and whatnot. Mildly amusing.”

“As long as you’re not on it,” Robert said.

“If you can’t get to the Web site, why don’t you just can the net admins, Robert? Why do we all have to pay for their incompetence?” Kevin rubbed his cheek with the arm he was leaning on. Elbow up, he looked foolish instead of nonchalant, Robert thought, but Robert’s idea of nonchalance tended to parade rest. Hands behind the back in a non-threatening way. Kevin liked to repose like that, in his Dockers and collared shirts, dressed in business casual to rank him somewhere above the casual information technology rabble. He probably stuffed a sock down his trousers, too.

I Write Like said:

I write like
William Gibson

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I don’t like that answer, either.

I’m giving up. There’s no telling how long it would take me to find a snippet that I Write Like would tell me the answer I am looking for (Ernest Hemingway).

But if my writing style varies that widely from one page to the next, I don’t question myself: I question I Write Like.